The Saskatchewan government is increasing spending in education but also fighting to get out of a deficit by starting to talk about “transformational change”.
As the provincial budget was released on Wednesday, it became clear that school boards may be part of that discussion.
As the province looks to find more efficiency in the way services are delivered, particularly at the administration level, there is a potential for amalgamating school divisions.
“What the end of this process might mean, we’re not certain, but we have to focus on what’s best for our students,” commented Connie Bailey, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.
The last amalgamation was 10 years ago, when the province reduced the number of school divisions from 71 to the current model of 28.
Bailey noted that there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future of the school divisions.
“We have 28 boards of education in this province with 28 different circumstances, and we – at this time – don’t understand what the effects on each of those boards of education might have,” she said.
Bailey maintained the key to these discussions about “transformational change” will be to take a collaborative approach with the government and all education partners to make sure the needs of students are being met.
University funding stays flat in this budget year
The University of Regina may not be getting an increase in funding in the provincial budget, but it’s still looking at the positives.
“The fact that we didn’t get a cut like some areas did reflects on the government’s recognition that post-secondary education is important. The returns from it help out the province in bigger, better ways,” said Dave Button, vice-president of administration at the U of R.
“We had asked for more money, we would like to have more money, we could do so much more with more money, but we also recognize the realities of the economic situation.”
Button added while they aren’t getting an increase to their yearly grant in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the university saw increases in enrollments and research productivity over the last year which allowed it to receive an additional $1 million through a transfer from the Saskatchewan Universities Funding Mechanism.
He said they’ll be looking internally at how to save money so that students aren’t impacted by way of increased tuition costs.
As for transformational change, Button welcomes it, especially if it improves services for students.
On Wednesday, finance minister Kevin Doherty gave several examples about the idea of transformational change at the post-secondary education level. As an example questioned the need for doubling up on faculties for engineering, education and nursing at both major universities. He also posed a question about the need for separate boards of directors at all the regional colleges in the province.