We have to wait until the April 10 budget to see whether the promise of $30 million of restoration to the education system by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe for 2018-19 will be held, but yesterday he announced $7.5 million would be invested into schools immediately.
Moe, who won the Saskatchewan Party leadership race in late January, said the $7.5 million annualizes out to the value of $30 million.
Of the $7.5 million, $383,000 is going to be split between the Chinook School Division (which will reportedly take $296,800) and Holy Trinity Catholic School Division (which will take the rest) - the two school divisions in the Swift Current area.
"This will be a start to a conversation with our education sector," the new premier, and Rosthern-Shellbrook MLA, said while in Swift Current yesterday. "Not only with teachers, not only with our school divisions, but also with parents across the province on how we should invest and how we need to continue to operate our education sector as a whole, and I think you'll see Minister [Gord] Wyant engage, and engage very quickly with all of our individuals and our groups within the education sector as he committed to that today."
"Premier Scott Moe’s announcement today that $7.5 million would immediately be invested by the government of Saskatchewan into province-wide education funding is very welcome news," said Everett Hindley, who is running as the Saskatchewan Party candidate for the March 1 Swift Current byelection. "More importantly, it is great news for the students, families, teachers and staff in the Swift Current constituency, where $383,000 more is being invested in the two area school divisions."
Stefan Rumpel is running for the opposition NDP in the Swift Current byelection, and appreciates that there is more money going into schools, but isn't totally satisfied, as last March's provincial budget included $55 million in cuts to education.
"Obviously it's good to see that people have been heard, that this education funding is important. Now it'll save a few jobs, which is good. The problem is that it's sort of a drop in the bucket, because Chinook School Division, for example - and I only know because I've taught in that division - is looking at larger shortfalls for employment than three or four positions, unfortunately. It's kind of like a small bandaid on a rather large cut. So it doesn't make up for those decisions."
Both sides agree education is key to future success, and Moe said it was really something that cropped up a lot after the previous budget.
"We do have challenging decisions ahead of us on our three-year plan, the balance of which we are now just over a year into. We do have some challenging decisions as we move through this next process. But this is about priorities. A priority on our education and on our next generation. As we travel the province over the last number of months, we've heard time and time again about the core services that the people in the province expect from their government in Saskatchewan, and education is among the highest of those, along with healthcare, taking care of our communities' vulnerable, our highways, those are the things that the people of Saskatchewan want us to continue to invest in, so this is a priority for us. We've had a budget briefing and we've found the dollars to invest in this interim effort, and then we'll have more to add when budget day comes."
"Back up your promises. That's all I'm looking for," said Rumpel. "If you say you're going to restore funding, which Gord Wyant has said - he's going to look at the funding model and try to get more money back in... but the problem is they need to do that now. And they've started, which is good. I'm not going to fault them for that. But they need to go full out, or else our students are going to suffer."
The Moe government plans on reaching a balanced budget by the 2019-20 fiscal year.