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Chinook School Division could cut education assistants' paid hours due to budgetary pressures


Education assistants (EA) in Chinook School Division are concerned their paid hours could take a hit.

According to the Service Employees International Union - West (SEIU), the union representing educational assistants, EAs currently work six hour days with hourly wages of around $19.30 to $20.67.

Two Chinook School Division EAs presented a delegation to the board on Monday, highlighting that full-time EA’s already don’t work a full-time week.

The delegation referenced the local budget and the decision to reduce “full time” EAs by 30 minutes each day to save money.

“To a person who earns over $100,000 a year this might not seem like much of a sacrifice, but to those of us who barely earn $30,000 it’s a great deal of money,” the delegation read.

“You can only stretch a dollar so far and these guys are about to stretch it to the point that it rips in half,” said Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West.

The delegation to the school board states a cut from 30 hours per week to 27.5 will mean full time EAs will no longer be deemed “full time” according to the Saskatchewan Labour Standards.

“Let’s make sure we’re getting these EAs the work that they need, six hours a day is not much, let’s not kid ourselves, and the wages are not unreasonable by any means,” said Cape.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said it has not yet received Chinook School Division’s budget submission.

The division is projected to receive $77,915,000 for the 2022-23 school year, which is an increase of $563,000 from last school year, said the ministry.

Additionally, Chinook School Division will also receive $190,459 from the targeted classroom supports fund to hire additional educational assistants.

"When we were faced with a major decrease in provincial funding five years ago, we found efficiencies by significantly reducing resources and staff out of central office and made every effort to minimize the impact on classrooms at that time,” Kim Pridmore, the chair of the Chinook School Board, said in a statement.

“The insufficient funding over the years has compounded our deficit situation, and we have continued to make reductions in several other departments and areas up until this point.”

Pridmore said the division now has limited options to reduce costs and it has “no choice” but to look at staffing reductions.

“The Board appreciated hearing feedback from the educational assistants, and we greatly value their positions and their dedicated work with children in our schools. We will be having discussions as a board and working to finalize the budget in the coming months,” Pridmore said.

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) said conditional funding, like the $7 million allocated for more educational assistants, doesn’t help to best meet the needs of all students.

“I know that all of our member boards are having some struggles with balancing their books and making ends meet,” said Shawn Davidson, president of the SSBA.

Overall, Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions will receive $1.99 billion in school operating funding, a 1.5 per cent increase from the 2021-22 school year.

He said divisions are going to have to make cuts in their local budgets because there is no funding for inflationary pressures, such as school bus fuel, from the province.

“EAs are responsible for anything from feeding tubes, to toileting, to behaviour, to assisting with trigonometry or writing an essay, but most importantly developing relationships with the students,” reads the delegation.

“The mental health and well-being of our students is of the upmost importance, but somewhere in the decision making process our mental health and wellbeing has been forgotten,” it continues.

The Ministry of Education said it has confidence the division will make decisions within their allocated budget to meet local priorities and address the needs of their students and staff. Top Stories

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