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Sask. Minister of Education responds to criticism over remote learning financials

One day following criticisms of the financials, the need, and the validity of the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre (Sask. DLC), Minister of Education Dustin Duncan responded.

Duncan did not answer CTV News’ questions Wednesday but spoke following session Thursday.

Tuesday, Duncan claimed the government could save public school divisions in the province $13 million with the new Crown corporation.

Wednesday, both the STF and the Prairie Valley School Division (PVSD) didn’t see how it was possible, with PVSD claiming it actually had a $600,000 clawback on its budget from this school year due to the Sask. DLC.

The $13 million figure, Duncan said, would be saved “in the way that we’re funding it.”

“We're funding the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation through two methods. One is a direct grant from the government of Saskatchewan, about $23 million. The other is a per class per student fee of $500 that the home school division will pay to the (Sask. DLC) for every student that takes one course,” Duncan explained.

The Minister of Education added that during discussions with school divisions with their own online learning policies, the government asked for the divisions to provide its own costs to operate online learning.

“What's your cost structure? How many teachers do you employ? And we received that information from most school divisions,” he said, pointing to Regina Public School Division as the lone division not to provide the figures.

“What we can say from that information is that, ‘Ok, as a school division, you have said it's going to cost you X, it has cost you X, in the past, to provide online learning.’”

Duncan said based on the understanding that student fees are $500, per student per class they take, the $13 million figure was created.

“For the public school divisions, it's about 250 full-time teachers that formally taught online learning that now will either be employed by the Saskatchewan Distance Learning corporation, or they will be still an employee of their local school division, and then we'll be able to be redeployed back into a classroom,” explained Duncan.

The $600,000 figure PVSD was referring to, Duncan said, was based on “historical” and “traditional” online learning the division had in the past.

That figure could climb in the future, Duncan did not indicate that it may drop, but added that funds are expected to be returned to school divisions from this past year based on actuals rather than estimates.

“So I think over the course of a couple of years, we likely will see an increase is particularly from students and school divisions that in the past didn't have access to a lot of courses when it came to online learning,” he said.

“We will reconcile based on actuals. So we're making an estimate right now, based on the actual enrollment in September, we will reconcile whether we were lower (or) we were high, and it basically will be $500 per class per student that takes an online class to the (Sask. DLC).” Top Stories

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