“ 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.”
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.