“ There’s a wide base of sup­port for this. This is not about en­hanc­ing or any­thing else like, it’s about main­tain­ing what we have.”

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

PORT HAST­INGS — The Strait Re­gional School Board will need a fund­ing in­crease of about 3.5 per cent to main­tain its cur­rent pro­grams, su­per­in­ten­dent Jack Beaton says.

For the past two years, the board has re­ceived the low­est per­cent­age fund­ing in­crease of any board in the prov­ince and dipped into its ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus to bal­ance the books.

A coali­tion rep­re­sent­ing school boards, teach­ers, par­ents and ad­min­is­tra­tors has launched a cam­paign they’re call­ing Save Grade 2. They say they need an in­crease of 3.5 per cent in fund­ing — or $35 mil­lion — provincewide. Without it, they say the prov­ince’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem will see cuts equiv­a­lent to 800 teach­ing po­si­tions or the loss of grade 2 pro­gram­ming.

“There’s a wide base of sup­port for this,” Beaton said. “This is not about en­hanc­ing or any­thing else like, it’s about main­tain­ing what we have. We’re re­ally con­cerned about any level of slip­page or go­ing back be­cause ob­vi­ously it’s not good for our stu­dents and it de­te­ri­o­rates the school sys­tem and it’s very dif­fi­cult to come back from that.”

Board chair Mary Jess MacDon­ald noted the in­creased money the boards are looking for in­cludes re-es­tab­lish­ing one-time cuts in­tro­duced last year, in­clud­ing a 50 per cent re­duc­tion in the al­lo­ca­tion for text books.

A strike by school board sup­port staff was re­cently nar­rowly averted and rat­i­fi­ca­tion votes are now un­der­way. That con­tract set­tle­ment could af­fect a board like SRSB more than some other boards be­cause it has a rel­a­tively high num­ber of work­ers rep­re­sented by CUPE.

Beaton noted that the over­all bud­get en­ve­lope al­lo­cated to ed­u­ca­tion by the prov­ince is only part of the equa­tion. One that is de­ter­mined, then a for­mula in­di­cates what in­di­vid­ual boards will re­ceive.

“It can be dis­trib­uted dif­fer­ently, based on the var­i­ous needs of schools ... (such as) the high per­cent­age of CUPE em­ploy­ees we have here, but also things like ge­og­ra­phy, the bussing is­sues that we have, sev­eral iso­lated schools that have rel­a­tively small classes, things like that,” he said.

There was strong board rep­re­sen­ta­tion at a re­cent pub­lic ses­sion held by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gra­ham Steele in Port Hawkes­bury.

The board has 7,400 stu­dents in the 25 schools it op­er­ates in the coun­ties of In­ver­ness, Rich­mond, Antigonish and Guys­bor­ough. It has an an­nual bud­get of about $80 mil­lion.

The other is­land board, the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board, is­sued a news release Fri­day in­di­cat­ing it is pro­ject­ing sig­nif­i­cant cuts to its bud­get. Chair Lorne Green said ar­eas of con­cern in­clude more com­bined classes, elim­i­na­tion of math and lit­er­acy men­tors, re­duced pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, build­ing main­te­nance fund­ing, and re­duc­tions in its teach­ing staff.

He noted the Cape Bre­tonVic­to­ria board has the high­est en­rol­ment de­cline of all the boards in the prov­ince — 600 stu­dents each year over the last 10 years.

The Strait board will hold a press con­fer­ence to­day in Mul­grave on the Save Grade 2 ini­tia­tive.

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