Sask. Rivers board hopes resolutions for SSBA Fall Assembly promote discussion of independent school funding and mill rate

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association has their regular Fall Assembly in November and one item on the agenda is bylaw amendments and resolutions.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education discussed some resolutions around hot button issues that they want to have before the Fall Assembly at their regular meeting on Monday.

These included having the SSBA make recommendations around the mill rate and the discussion of how independent schools are funded.

“That’s the way we operate or the way the organization that represents school boards operates,” education director Robert Bratvold said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to influence the direction and all of that kind of stuff, and it’s good conversation. Every year there is consideration for the pertinent issues, (and) what’s upcoming, so it’s a good thing.”

A resolution put forth by trustee Grant Gustafson called on the Saskatchewan School Board Association Executive to begin discussions with the Ministry of Education to make a joint recommendation on the education mill rate. A similar resolution was attempted last year, but did not reach the floor of the AGM.

Bratvold thought that both resolutions were put in such a way to promote conversation.

“I think there hasn’t been much school board involvement in that in the last many years, but there are hopes that this is going to encourage some connection to that work,” he said. “It makes sense to me because it’s not a directive (saying) ‘you should do this with the Mill Rate.’ It’s invitational, as in ‘let’s sit down and talk about this together, about what it is, and what funds are needed by education.’ Those sorts of issues.”

Trustee Bill Yeaman also introduced a resolution asking for discussion on the funding of Independent Schools in the wake of the Christian School abuse controversy this summer. The resolution called on the SSBA to jointly review funding for all independent schools with the Ministry of Education. That would include Associate Schools, Historical High Schools, Qualified Independent School, Certified Independent Schools and Alternative Independent Schools,”

Yeaman told the board that it was partially inspired by another trustee from Weyburn challenging the Minister of Education at the last SSBA AGM on the topic and him having a typical government answer.

“I think the government needs to justify how they fund private education in Saskatchewan and how they take public funds that should be coming to our schools and the Catholic schools,” Yeaman said.

“I think it’s time we hold the government accountable to explain how they fund private schools in Saskatchewan and why it has increased since 2012.”

Trustee who supported the motion said it was about making recommendations, and not reducing funding.

‘I think it’s a great motion and at the core of it, it will create great discussion,” trustee Jaimie Smith-Windsor said.

Trustee Darlene Rowden asked if these schools had increases in attendance that would justify the funding increases since 2012. She also said there needs to be discussion on what the public system is or is not doing that’s causing families to send their children to private schools.

“I am not trying to advocate for the government, but if enrolment there has increased so much, maybe that’s why they are increasing their funding and maybe the bigger question really is what are we doing and what are we not doing,” Rowden said.

Smith-Windsor wondered if it is a shift in policy from the traditional form of education to more boutique based option around parent’s choice.

“If that’s the policy shift let’s talk about it, just as Bill has presented,” she said. “Let’s get government to be very clear that this is the road we are going down is we are going to have boutique education and we are going to erode our publicly funded education system at the expense of all of the students who are welcome to attend our publicly funded schools, at the expense of parents having choice, because that’s what it is. They get 16 per cent increase and we have to live under the cost of inflation for a decade.”

Trustees discussed the motion’s wording, but Yeaman favoured leaving it as it was and hope that the accountability would come from the discussions.

Bratvold also hopes that these resolutions reach the floor at the SSBA AGM.

“I am sure that they (the Ministry of Education) have got some reasons for the things that they have done, but they haven’t really had that conversation about, ‘how does that impact, more broadly, publicly funded education with public and Catholic school divisions?’”

The deadline for submissions is October 13. The SSBA Fall General Assembly is from Nov. 13 to 15.