March 24, 2013 by realrenewal
Anyone who expected to see a major investment in First Nations and Metis Education in this budget is bound to be disappointed. Meanwhile, new funding is going toward initiating standardized testing and exploring how to hand school construction over to the private sector.
$3 million has been allocated toward new initiatives arising from the Joint Task Force recommendations. For comparison, this is:
- Less than the $3.5 million allocated to help private (associate) schools manage enrolment increases.
- Roughly half of the allocation for exploring standardized testing ($5.9 million)
- Half of the allocation for exploring privatized school construction ($6 million)
Respondents to RealRenewal’s survey on First Nations and Metis Education, undertaken last fall, identified chronic underfunding as the major barrier. Our submission called for a serious investment. RealRenewal’s Submission to the Joint Task Force
$5.9 million will be spent to develop a standardized testing regime. Education professors at the University of Regina have launched a petition protesting this move. Sign here.
New school construction includes $18.7 million to be shared among three projects already approved in March 2012, in Hudson Bay, Leader and Martensville.
As for the next round of construction, there were 7 schools projects sitting on the Priority 1A list. Of these, two will receive $1.9 million total to move ahead to the planning stage (Gravelbourg and Langenburg). The controversial Connaught rebuild is on the 1A list, but was not named as a go-ahead project in 2013.
Meanwhile, $6 million has been allocated to SaskBuilds to explore a new system of P3 construction (public-private partnership schools, not to be confused with the architectural firm of the same name). The P3 schools would be bulk-tendered and swiftly constructed, with schools sharing the same blueprint. This approach comes from Alberta, where it has been criticized for pushing up costs and imposing designs that don’t respond to local needs.
Other school capital spending
- $119.6 million total to cover existing requests for repairs and construction, including the 5 ‘new’ projects mentioned above.
- $27 million for preventative maintenance
- 40 portable classrooms to be added
The new mill rates will be 2.67 mills for agricultural land, down from 3.91 mills, and
5.03 mills for residential property, down from 9.51 mills. All commercial properties will now share a single rate of 8.28 mills, instead of a three-tier system of variable rates. The new rates are said to be revenue neutral, with the inclusion of a new resource property rate of 11.04 mills.
- An additional $600,000 to add 15 new pre-K programs
- $17 million to address enrolment increases
- A reduction of two staff positions in the Ministry offices