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School boards concerned about autonomy, government control in Sask.
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 7, 2017 1:04PM CST
Last Updated Friday, April 7, 2017 2:36PM CST
The group representing Saskatchewan school boards says it's afraid boards are losing independence as the government takes more control.
Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, says legislation introduced this week keeps elected trustees on schools boards, but takes away autonomy to make decisions and gives that responsibility to the minister of education.
"So when that happens, trustees and elected boards become the face of public education, instead of the voice of public education," Davidson said Friday.
The amendments to the Education Act would give the minister the power to order school boards to find ways to save money in the areas of transportation and bulk purchasing.
They would also set a common salary grid for senior school division administrators and standardize board member costs.
The changes come as the government tries to tackle a $1.3-billion deficit.
Davidson says boards have always had the responsibility to make decisions that are appropriate for their area and he's hopeful that board autonomy will be preserved.
"There are reasons why boards make the decisions that we do. It comes down to when we're dealing with a funding cut, we either have to make a change to this program or to that program," said Davidson.
"We've only got so many dollars to deal with."
The concern also comes after Education Minister Don Morgan said Thursday that he won't approve a budget from Regina Public Schools that cuts preschool programs for deaf or autistic kids.
The Regina public school board said Wednesday that it was eliminating those programs because of the 2.5 per cent or $5.7 million funding cut by the province.
It said with projected enrolment growth and the opening of three new schools, the cut and increased costs leaves a $9.5 million hole in its budget.
The board said preschool for three- and four-year-olds in programs that are not required by the Ministry of Education will be phased out by 2018-19, with no new registrations accepted for this fall.
Morgan said there won't be more money coming from the province, but that Ministry of Education officials will work with the Regina public board to see what funding is in their budget.
Davidson says boards are losing funding of almost $500 per student, on average across the province, in the upcoming school year.
That will be painful, he said.
"We will commit to keeping the cuts as far away from the classrooms as is possible," he said.
"But the level of cutback that we've been handed cannot be dealt with entirely with efficiencies and cuts to administration and the things that are being floated out. There are going to be changes in the classroom."