NDP gets fail on comments about MLA

By Geoff Lee

October 27, 2016 12:00 AM

Colleen Young

Not making cuts to education, says Colleen Young

Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young (Lloydminster) gives the NDP an F for failure to communicate the full reality of education funding for school boards.
Young says nuts to a email last week to media from the NDP caucus that, in a House debate last week, accuses our MLA of blaming school divisions for budget cuts.
“I wasn’t blaming anybody,” said Young, during a phone call Tuesday from Regina.
“It was during the debate of a motion put forward by a member from Regina Lakeview (NDP education critic) with regards to suggesting we’re underfunding education and making cuts to education.”
The email letter quotes Young as saying, “If students in this province are not receiving the supports they need, it can only be laid back on school boards not making appropriate decisions which are in the best interests of students.
“Funding is provided and they determine where it goes.”
Young said her statement was in regard to the fact school divisions in this province have the legislative authority to determine staffing complements and student supports and resources within their own classrooms.
The email letter goes on to blame Young’s Sask Party for not fully funding teachers’ contracts and not providing mid year enrolment adjustments to budgets.
In the 2016-17 provincial budget, Education Minster Don Morgan said school divisions will start paying for half of the 1.9 per cent increase it promised teachers in its collective bargaining agreement due to tough economic times.
“As our minister of education has stated time and time again in the House, that teachers’ collective bargaining agreement will be fully honoured and provided to the school divisions,” said Young.
In June, Morgan reported the government was honouring the contract even if the school division pays a portion of it.
He urges school divisions to work with the government to find cost savings.
Young said she has not heard of any staffing cuts as a result of the contract cost sharing policy including the Lloydminster Public School Division (LPSD).
“None whatsoever that I understand,” said Young, specifically about the impact at LPSD.
“As a matter of fact, our school division has been supportive of the government and understanding the government in these challenging economic times…”
She noted LPSD has worked hard to find efficiencies and savings within the division and to ensure that any of those efficiencies are addressed and put back into the classroom.
David Thompson, Board of Education chair for the Lloydminster Public School Division acknowledges the difficulties.
“The Lloydminster Public School Division appreciates there are challenges as a result of the current economic situation in Saskatchewan, which can lead to pressures both provincially and with school boards,” he said.
“This can mean difficult decisions being made at both levels, (but) without context, it would be difficult to make comment on those remarks, but the Lloydminster Public School Division feels our classrooms are well resourced and our students have the supports they need. We do appreciate our relationship with MLA Colleen Young and look forward to continuing working with her to put students first.”
Young said she also takes exception to the email suggestion Young’s Sask Party left school divisions high and dry with the cancellation of mid-year enrolment adjustments.
She says her government has provided a funding envelop to school divisions across this province with an average 33 per cent increase in operating grants to all school divisions since coming to power in 2007.
Young notes the enrolment increase across the province has only gone up by about nine per cent over the past nine years.
She also says there have been 24 school renovations during the past nine years and infrastructure investment in schools is continuing.
“There are classrooms for students and a learning environment that is essential for students to be able to reach their full potential,” said Young.
Young was trustee on the LPSD board for 20 years and said she fully understands the hard decisions they have to make on a daily and annual basis in order to ensure students are receiving all the right supports in the classroom.
School divisions however, cannot generate their own tax revenue due to previous changes the Sask Party made that removed their ability to levy a mill rate.
“Those decisions were made by this government based on funding challenges across the province for school divisions to be on an equal basis with reduced populations in some areas over others,” said Young.
“So that is why our government committed to ensuring that the operating grants were increased.”
Young said since the new centralized funding model, her party has continued since 2012 to provide transition dollars to all school divisions so no one saw a decrease in their operating grants.

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