Sask Rivers board to look at budget scenarios as part of budget planning

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

The Saskatchewan Rivers board of education will begin planning out their ideal budget in hopes of showing parents and the provincial government what could be possible with more funding.

Education Director Robert Bratvold presented his annual review of budget priorities, guidelines and timelines at Monday’s meeting. Bratvold said this year’s discussions would lay the groundwork for advocating for more support.

“What we have done historically is say, ‘what are our greatest needs and how do we fit them in a balanced budget,’ and that’s where we go. There is potential to say, ‘if we had a budget that would actually mostly meet our needs, this is what the cost would be,’” he explained.

He explained that the scenarios would be an advantage for advocacy at the provincial level where trustees could accurately convey what more educational assistants (EA) would cost.

Trustee Darlene Rowden said it’s difficult to cost out budget priorities while the 2020-30 Provincial Education Plan is still under development.

“It would be nice for advocacy efforts knowing if you want this plan to succeed this is what it is actually going to take,” she said.

Sask. Rivers representatives recently met with Education Minister Dustin Duncan and did not have numbers available at that time.

Trustee Bill Yeaman said creating an ideal budget could also be useful in getting parents to talk with their local MLAs about education funding. He suggested bringing the ideal budget to School Community Councils so they could see what exactly the school division has to work with, and what it needs.

“I would love to go to our SCC and say, ‘you know what? This is the amount of money that we would need to have some real success in Sask Rivers School Division with your kids that you pay taxes for,” he said. “When you start to phone the MLA, you can now give him these numbers to say, ‘if Sask Rivers had 15 more million or whatever my kids would see an impact.’”

Yeaman said having parents who are more vocal about education funding would provide a boost to the division’s advocacy efforts.

“It can’t come from us all the time,” he said. “Nobody is listening to us anymore. It has to come from Joe Parent and Sally Parent who are sending (their kids). I know it is time consuming, but I think it would be valuable. I think it really would. I would love to see it.”

Bratvold said that they could do something similar to what they did in discussions during their MLA meeting with costing out of pillars of the Provincial Education Plan such as mental health.

Trustee Jamie Smith-Windsor said provincial governments like to know where their money goes, since they provide school funding. However, she said the division needs to be clearer about what current funding levels cover.

Without those numbers, she said, school divisions get conditional funding, which the government believes is adequate. Instead they could hear from parents about regular issues, like an EA shortage.

“We end up with those kinds of solutions being given to us with conditionality attached to them, as opposed to saying, ‘these are the kinds of things we can accomplish and I think it’s a good strategy.’ I anticipate and appreciate that it would be extra effort, but (creating an ideal budget) puts the meat on the bones of our Strategic Plan of the Provincial Education Plan and the vision and the direction that we need to be going in. I think it’s fair to point out the shortfalls and underscore the need for greater investment in education so I support it,” Smith-Windsor said.

The board passed a motion to approve the budget priorities, guidelines and timelines including budget scenarios.