A cut in educational governance funding in the provincial budget will put more stress on rural and remote school trustees, according to the organization representing the province’s 28 school divisions.
Governance funding, which covers trustee compensation, travel and professional development, fell to $7.2 million in the 2017-18 budget, a decrease of 36 per cent from last year’s $11.3 million.
The reduction means some elected officials will have to cover costs once paid for by provincial funding, according to the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA).
“That’s going to make it challenging for some people that live in remote places to perhaps be effective governors, because it will potentially limit the amount of travel that they’re able to do,” SSBA president Shawn Davidson said. This could mean less face-to-face collaboration at a time when the province is challenging divisions to work together to find savings, he added.
The SSBA is also concerned about the long-term effects of the cut, as it may create a fiscal burden that prevents people from seeking a school board seat, Davidson said.
Funding also fell by 1.8 per cent for base instruction, by 2.1 per cent for school-based supports and by 3.6 per cent for supports for learning fell. Teachers will be asked to take a 3.5 per cent wage cut when negotiations between school boards, the government and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation start in May.
Saskatoon’s public school board faces a governance funding cut of 33.2 per cent, dropping to $635,000 from $951,000 last year. Board chair Ray Morrison said trustees are concentrating on keeping cuts out of the classroom.
“The magnitude of the reduction was a bit of a surprise to us,” he said. “Governance will probably be the last line item that we look at in the budget.”
In a recent interview, Education Minister Don Morgan said the reduction is symbolic, to show that ministry staff, teachers and trustees are working together to address the fiscal challenge.