On March 18, the Ministry of Education announced the 2020-2021 budget revealing the $2.57 billion expense, an increase of $86 million or 3.5 percent from last year.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the on-going labor dispute between the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation and the province. Both sides agree that negations will need to take a back seat considering the current health crisis.
Since the schools were mandated to close last week, teachers and students have been confined to their homes waiting for direction from the school divisions. In turn, the school divisions are also waiting for direction from the Ministry of Education on best practices for how to move forward with priority being the health and safety of students and staff.
Much of the focus now will be on developing and implementing new strategies to support a successful outcome for students between now and the next school term this September 2020.
Negotiations are currently on hold for both sides and the STF assumes that the bargaining teams will get back together soon to continue its discussions with the province.
Recent sanctions enacted before the pandemic are a moot point at this time.
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation explains,
“At this point, we know that the sanctions ultimately have been rendered ineffective and that's not a priority of our concern at this point because bargaining itself has taken a back seat to this whole situation. Once we adjust to a new sense of normal in this, then I would anticipate that both sides would hopefully be able to get back together and perhaps work out some sort of an agreement before any of the sanctions become a concern.”
Commenting specifically on the budget increase, Maze adds,
“There are all kinds of unprecedented new challenges that the government is facing, and I would think that teachers would be expected to recognize that as well.
That said, a 3.5 percent increase is a step in the right direction and so we know that the government is moving towards at least maintaining budgets and likely a bit of an increase for reclamation of enrolment and inflationary pressures that school divisions are facing.
"It's moving in the right direction, it's probably not enough, but with that said, given the new reality for the government that might be all there is at this time.”
Budget issues and class sizes, Maze states, has never been the main issue, he expands,
“It's never been about class size and that's one important thing to understand. Even though in some situations in the larger urban centers there are classrooms that have too many students. The important term is the class complexity or class composition and making sure that students are supported in the classroom. We know in some rural schools there is a relatively fewer number of students, but when they are spread across four grades and with outcomes and indicators that have to be met for each grade level, it can be a really difficult task for teachers to keep on track of all the different curricula and meeting all those outcomes and indicators for each student and each student level.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the province as everyone is trying to navigate and find ways to be proactive in challenging situations, the STF primary concern is with making sure that families, students, staff and facilities are safe.