Last week's provincial budget included $4 billion in education spending, which is up $235.3 million or 6.2 per cent from last year. This includes $3.1 billion to support Pre-K to Grade 12 schools, early learning and childcare and libraries in the province.
Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will get $2 billion in operating funds, an increase of $49.4 million compared to last year.
About $7 million will be allotted to the school divisions to maintain more than 200 additional full-time teachers as part of the government's commitment since September of 2021.
The director of education for Holy Trinity Catholic School Division Ward Strueby says that while the increased education funding is welcome, he cautions that the increase falls short of covering pressures due to inflation and enrolment growth.
"For our school division, compared to the 2022/23 budget day announcement, Holy Trinity will receive an additional $805,000 in funding, which is a 3.3 per cent increase, which is great news but that $805,000 includes previously announced funding for adjustments for enrolment growth, which for us was $475,000 and $177,000 for inflationary pressures," he explained. "If you peel back those two layers with already previously announced, we are set to see $153,000 to meet the needs of our upcoming students and other inflationary pressures. We're seeing about a 0.6% increase once you peel back those numbers."
Holy Trinity's September 30th enrolment of 2,345 students exceeded projections by 93 students or 4.1%.
Also announced in the budget was about $152.3 million for education capital. This includes $115.7 million to support the ongoing planning and construction of 15 new schools and the renovation of five existing schools.
"In that funding, we're continuing to work on our major capital project, which is the South Hill joint-school and also a minor capital project that was announced last year with the additional funding for École St. Margaret," commented Strueby. "We're hopeful that with prices in inflation and costs of building that we receive adequate funding to ensure that we can successfully complete both those projects."
He gave an update on the South Hill joint-school.
"Our tender is closing and we're taking a look at what the cost will be and hopefully the money that we received to build the joint-school will be matching but if not we're hoping to work closely with the government and the ministry to get that building complete. Our École St. Margaret project is similar. Last year was the first year for a minor capital project in the province. We were really happy to hear that coming. Our piece here is we need to make sure the money that we received for these two projects meets the actual cost."
Strueby says the minor capital project at École St. Margaret School involves right-sizing the school.
"We do have some excess space in the school and we have some portables that are way past their time in terms of being used for learning. We're looking to right-size that. We're looking at doing some upgrades to areas like the library, looking at doing some work to the exterior that needed to be done for some time. It will really help ensure that École St. Margaret is ready to go for years to come."
He notes $4 million has been allocated towards the project.
"Right now we're working with the ministry because our numbers aren't lining up at this point. Hopefully, we have some answers here in the near future and we'll work closely with them to clearly articulate what things need to get done and what things are crucial for instructional and safety in the building."
Strueby adds they were pleased to see a commitment to fund the upcoming Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement with the STF (Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation), however, he notes they will need to accommodate negotiated salary increases for their support staff.
Of some concern for the division, is the absence of adequate capital funding, combined with a reduction in Preventative Maintenance & Renewal funding, which Strueby says may compromise their ability to maintain the school division’s infrastructure.
-with files from Shawn Slaght/Discover Moose Jaw