Taking education to task
More K-12 educational outcome recommendations becoming a reality this year
Fifteen of the recommendations from the premier’s task force on improving educational outcomes are already in place in K-12 schools throughout the province.
By September of this year, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dale Kirby says, over half of the 82 total recommendations will be implemented thanks to a $6.9-million expenditure in this year’s provincial budget.
The big-ticket item is $3.1 million for reading specialists, learning resource teachers and instructional assistants in the K-12 education system.
“The plan is to ensure that we have far more intervention when it comes to reading and mathematics and then also more support when it comes to special services,” says Kirby, noting the program will start with 40 pilot schools this fall and will eventually be allocation based.
“All schools in the province will have additional resources as a result of this budget, but as we roll out the new models of reading intervention, mathematic support and special services, more schools will be coming on.”
Nearly $1 million has been set aside for government resources to support the implementation of the recommendations.
“Those are people who are specialists in reading, mathematics, special services, multicultural education, Indigenous education, people at the department level and district level who will be helping to roll all of that out.”
The government will also spend $1.9 million this year to support professional learning for teachers, with a commitment of almost $2 million for the next three years.
Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA) president Dean Ingram called the moves positive, and said he was particularly pleased with government recognizing the problems surrounding inclusive education.
“We’ve known that for years, we’ve been saying that for years, and certainly echoing what parents, students and teachers have had to say to us consistently about their concerns with inclusive education. These are all things that need to be addressed. I’m pleased that there seems to be a plan there,” Ingram said. “I know there’s a move to address and revise student support services policy, which we’re looking forward to being part of.”
Where Ingram says the government missed out in this budget was in addressing class size and class composition, movement on the NLTA’s school counsellor and school psychologist recommendations, and a return of the school administrator allocations.
“Right now, societal issues tend to find their ways into schools. In order for principals and vice-principals to adequately deal with those, they need to have time to do so,” Ingram said, pointing to issues like exterior threats, social media and the impending cannabis legislation.
Other expenditures include $500,000 for learning resource supports and school libraries; $113,000 for youth apprenticeship/co-operative education; and $40,000 in bursaries for K-6 teachers to upgrade math pedagogy.
Education infrastructure spending plans include $15.5 million for repairs and maintenance of existing schools and $11.4 million to begin construction of an intermediate school in Paradise and a replacement for the Coley’s Point Primary in Bay Roberts.
There’s also $4.3 million to complete an extension for Mobile Central High School, $1.4 million to plan for a new francophone school and replacement for Bay d’Espoir Academy, and $900,000 for a new school bus depot in Corner Brook.
Early childhood development is allocated $61.6 million — $22 million of which is coming over three years through a bilateral agreement under the federal government’s child care strategy.
“This supports early learning and child care options through subsidies, grants, bursaries and professional learning opportunities,” Finance Minister Tom Osborne said in his budget speech.
The province will spend $12.4 million to expand and enhance the operating grant program for child care service providers and to create a new operating grant program for regulated family child care homes.
There’s also $3 million for the child care services subsidy program.
Other expenditures include $1.5 million to enhance the child care capacity initiative by further increasing the net family income threshold (after income testing) to $35,000, $1.7 million for administration of programs and services, $3 million for the capital renovation grant program and new quality improvement grant for licensed child care centres, and $450,000 for increased bursaries and grants for professional learning for early childhood educators.