Protesters gather to speak out about education cuts
A vocal group of protesters met on May 5 to voice their opposition to a series of changes to education they say will have a negative impact on children.
Speakers during the Friday afternoon rally voice concerns over funding cuts in the provincial budget, along with new powers granted to the Education Minster following the approval of Bill 63. Friday’s Show Up To Save Our Schools Rally was held in front of Premier Brad Wall’s Swift Current Constituency office.
“The rollbacks are absolutely ludicrous,” said Omar Murray, a school bus driver from Maple Creek who is also President of CUPE Local 4754 which represents support workers in the Chinook School Division.
“I have talked to a lot of my members and they are very concerned because these cuts, whether they want to say it or not, directly impact the children.”
The Chinook School Division has laid off at least nine staff following receiving a reduction of 7.3 per cent, or $6 million from what they were anticipating to operate for the coming year.
These education cuts are also being felt across the province after the budget delivered $22 million in reduced funding, and Saskatchewan post-secondary funding was dropped by $30 million.
Stacey Lolacher, also from SEIU West, spoke of the impact of cuts being felt by teachers and other education workers.
“We know what our teachers do for children out of their own pockets. There’s nothing left to give,” she said of the cuts.
“I don’t understand how there is money for million and billion dollar corporations to get more tax cuts, while our parents are paying more for food, and clothes,” she said. “And how the government is telling our education workers to chop a little more off every corner, to take some days off in our healthcare. There’s nothing left to give.”
Lolacher noted that their protest is just a continuation of efforts which are occurring across the province.
“If they thought that they could reverse the cuts to our libraries, and that we’d all just go home satisfied, they were sorely mistaken.”
“We didn’t get a chance to vote on this budget. Nobody did. We didn’t know about it. So we aren’t going home until our cuts are reversed. Until our children are looked after. That’s why we’re here today.”
Chris Mulhall, a representative of SEIU West, pointed out that while the province made the decision to keep elected school boards, the passing of Bill 63 takes away much of their abilities. The Southwest contributed 1,100 of the over 5,000 responses given in reaction to the K-12 Education Governance Report submitted by Dan Perrins.
“They acknowledged the word but didn’t acknowledge the spirt. What they’re doing here now is they’ve stripped away the rights to fund and the rights to do the major decisions from our School Board. They’ve made the Schools Boards the face, and the buffer zone, for all the insult and anger that’s going to come back over these cuts.”
“It’s unfair to our trustees. They have our children’s best interests at heart. The staff here have our children’s best interests at heart. Our community has our children’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately we have folks that have made decisions otherwise.”
He added that the province still has time to reverse their education cuts.
“The way you fix that is admitting it,” Mulhall said. “Admit your mistake, return the funding back to our children because that’s the right thing to do.”
A protest was held in downtown Swift Current on May 5 to speak out against education cuts in the provincial budget.