Put Kids First: By Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West
As the school year continues on, we have an opportunity to celebrate Education Week (October 20 – 26. 2019) and to put kids first. But this is no mere platitude, rather a call to recognize the value of education and the impact on our province.
Saskatchewan has undergone some dramatic changes in the past ten years. Our provincial government boasts an increase in population and a strong economy. Our Premier publicly states that he is standing up for Saskatchewan. We need to engage on this undertaking with him – is he really standing up for our younger generation? Is he standing up for education?
We lost approximately 350 Education Assistant jobs during the boom years. This was followed up by the 2017-18 budget, where the education sector experienced deep cuts to the tune of 54 million dollars; in the 2018-19 budget funding was restored but only to the extent of 30 million dollars. In our current budget year school operating grants were reduced by 31.5 million dollars. This leaves us struggling at significantly reduced budget levels. The real world impact of those funding cuts has been larger classroom sizes; reduced services in maintenance and infrastructure; further cuts to all staff who work as Librarian and Education Assistants, Administrative Assistants, and Maintenance, among others. When classroom sizes balloon and resources are stripped, it is the students who suffer. With a growing population, the program cuts for English as an Additional Language and supports for students with special needs are particularly concerning…our kids need our support!
Your voices and collective wisdom can make the difference in the decision of the government to ensure that we have more staff: Teachers, Education Assistants, Maintenance, Administrative and Library Assistants. Our province depends on the education that we can provide: high quality education is a silver bullet that can promote prosperity and progress for our future society.
The time is now – during Education Week – reach out to your MLA and ask them to put kids first – end understaffing. Our children deserve a safe, comfortable and well supported learning environment.