Province announces funding agreement with SSBA

Daily Herald File Photo STF President Samantha Becotte

The provincial government and Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) have announced a multi-year funding agreement with the support of Saskatchewan’s locally elected boards of education.

The move drew the ire of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), who said this is outside of the ongoing collective bargaining process with teachers. On Friday, STF president Samantha Becotte said they are prepared to return to the table and cease sanctions immediately if government is willing to provide assurances that boards of education cannot use these new funds for anything other than student supports.

“This is what we consider (to be) restricted funds,” Samantha Becotte told reporters during a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon.

“We’re disappointed that the minister continues to search for ways to delay the dispute and avoid making meaningful commitments with teachers to ensure that students are well supported in classrooms across the province.”

Becotte accused the province of only giving trustees a 24-hour window to support with the funding agreement. She said the STF became aware of the 24-hour deadline because of information shared by anonymous local trustees. Neither the SSBA or provincial government confirmed the allegation.

According to the province, the agreement guarantees a base amount of long-term funding to school divisions and signifies a shared commitment to enhancing educational outcomes and providing additional classroom supports across the province.

It provides a minimum of $356.6 million per year for four years of classroom supports as well as increased investment into youth mental health resources as part of a budget that marks the largest increase of $180 million to school operating funding ever.

“This agreement provides a written guarantee, signed by the government, for long-term funding for classroom supports – funding that will address important issues like classroom size and complexity,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said in a press release.

“Now that our government has made this unprecedented commitment in a signed agreement, it’s time for the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation to end their job action and return to the bargaining table, so that students and teachers can return to the classroom.”

“This agreement represents the willingness of both the Ministry of Education and school boards to work collaboratively toward solutions with some predictable and sustainable funding to back it up,” SSBA President and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division trustee Jaimie Smith-Windsor said.

“These issues are best addressed at the local level, working with teachers, staff, students, parents, and families.”

The province argued that the partnership signals a commitment to ongoing collaboration between government and school boards in supporting students and establishing a new pathway to long-term funding sustainability. They also said the agreement underscores a mutual recognition of the importance of local decision-making, the diversity of Saskatchewan’s communities and signals strengthening relationships by providing direct investment for classrooms.

Becotte said the province has already shown they can take decisions out of the hands of local school boards. She pointed to the provincial decision to stop school boards from implementing their own levy as one example.

“We’ve also seen the consequences to local school divisions and their funding following local trustees speaking out publicly about the decisions of this government,” Becotte said.

The STF also wants to tie funding to increases in enrolment and inflation, rather than remaining flat, include a reporting mechanism on the use of these funds within school divisions to ensure transparency, ensure funding is not subject to appropriation.

The STF called on government and SSBA provincial leadership to commit to this new funding within the language of a provincial collective agreement.

“Just because there’s an agreement that is between the Ministry of Education and the SSBA doesn’t prevent an agreement to happen within the collective bargaining process,” Becotte said.

Prince Albert schools to be part of job action next week

Also on Friday the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) gave notice of a three-day, province wide withdrawal of extracurricular activities on March 11-13 and a one-day, rotating withdrawal of noon-hour supervision on March 11.

The noon-hour withdrawal includes PAATA members in the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

“While this week’s funding announcement is welcome, it does not guarantee ongoing, predictable and sustainable funding for education,” Becotte said in a news release.

By law, 48 hours’ notice is required for job action; however, Becotte said the STF is providing extra time to allow families to plan and the government to change course.

Along with Prince Albert schools, all schools in Creighton School Division, Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, Horizon School Division, Lloydminster Public and Lloydminster Catholic school divisions, Northwest School Division, Prairie Spirit School Division, Prairie South School Division and Prairie Valley School Division and Sun West School Division will be affected.

Job action already taken this week included a rotating strike on Monday when STF members and their supporters congregated at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, as MLAs made their way in for the first day of the fourth session of the 29th legislature.

A rotating withdrawal of noon hour supervision for select schools division took place on Tuesday, as well as a provincewide withdrawal of extracurricular activities on Tuesday and Wednesday. A rotating withdrawal of noon-hour supervision was also scheduled for Friday.