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Sask. school divisions struggle with financial pressures despite 'record' education budget


School divisions across Saskatchewan are making it known that fiscal challenges remain, despite the province’s attempts at addressing capacity issues in its most recent budget.

Both Regina’s Public and Catholic school divisions have been forced to dip into their respective reserves – citing shortfalls and the effects of inflation.

The Regina Public School Board received $23.5 million more in provincial funding as opposed to last year.

Regardless, a raise in the most recent budget does not undo several years’ worth of underfunding, according to Board Chair Sarah Cummings-Truszkowksi.

“For the past eight years, public education in Saskatchewan has been severely underfunded. And as much as this is a boost for us, we’re also just climbing back out of the hole. So we’re still not where we should be,” she explained.

“Last year, our per-student funding was about $9,600. This year, it’s going to be a little over $10,000. Which is great, it’s gone up a little but. But it should actually be at $12,000 or more.”

Regina Catholic Schools are also relying on reserve funds to cover a $1.5 million shortfall – mainly due to salaries and transportation costs.

“In order to balance the budget, we’re utilizing $1.5 million from external restricted reserves,” CFO Josh Kramer told CTV News. “These reserves are funds set aside for these specific reasons. We did receive the funds in the prior fiscal school year.”

The desperate measures come as the province reports that Regina Catholic received an increase of $17.5 million or 14.3 per cent in its annual budget.

The issue of fiscal shortfalls are not just evident in the province’s capital.

Prairie Valley School Division says it’s facing a projected $600,000 cash deficit for the 2024-2025 fiscal year.

“Increased funding for more frontline staff members and some dedicated funding for inflation allows Prairie Valley to continue addressing rural classroom complexity,” Board Chair Janet Kotylak said in a June 25 news release.

“However, many more provincial education budget increases are needed for students to receive the full complement of programs and services they need and deserve.”

All told, the division’s budget will increase to $109 million, or by 2.6 per cent. Five positions to address rural classroom complexity will be added, costing $1.3 million. Overall staffing will rise by 10.2 FTEs (full time equivalent) positions.

A nearly $1 million increase for transportation and some additional funding for support staff cost-of-living salary increases were also laid out in the budget.

Even with the additional funding, the division says transportation will still maintain an $850,000 deficit in 2025 while $3 million in support staff salary increases will remain unfunded.

Kotylak echoed other division’s sentiments, calling the most recent budget “a good start” towards restoring sustainable investment in public education.

“But you can’t make up for seven years of underfunding in one budget,” she explained.

In the midst of job actions by teachers, the Government of Saskatchewan touted a record $3.3 billion budget for the Ministry of Education in March.

Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions received $2.2 billion in operating funding – representing a $180 million increase from the year previous.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Education outlined that budget day funding is based off of projected enrollments and is updated in the fall once actual enrollments are verified.

The ministry also highlighted that a formula to support in-year school enrollment growth will be utilized for a second time this upcoming school year.

“Education is a shared responsibility in Saskatchewan,” the ministry’s response read. “While government provides funding to school divisions, staffing and programming decisions are the responsibility of the school divisions and must be made within their allocated budget.”

The 2024-25 school division budgets are set to be reviewed by the Ministry of Education once they are completed. Top Stories

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