Sask. Rivers surprised by education funding announcement

The announcement last week of a one-time investment of $20 million in funding for the 2022-23 school year to assist with rising fuel and insurance costs for the province’s school divisions was a surprise to the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division.

Education Robert Bratvold said they weren’t expecting additional help from the province, but they were thankful to get it.

“I had hoped that they would be able to recognize the impact of inflationary pressures, but had no reason to think that they were going to make that announcement,” Bratvold said on Monday.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division receive $956,200 of the $20 million promised to school divisions, while the Prince Albert Catholic School Division will receive $262,500.

Both divisions passed balanced budgets at their final meetings of the school year on June 20. The additional funding means both divisions will have to resubmit their budgets to the province.

“It’s not an enormous task for us,” Bratvold said. “There are just a few adjustments that we have to make and there is some conditionality to that funding, so we have to make sure we account for it properly in our budget.”

The money is all earmarked for transportation and insurance costs. Bratvold said it won’t result in significant changes, but it will allow them to cover anticipated increases in fuel costs they otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet.

Bratvold said he’s thankful for the money, and credited the government for recognizing the impact inflation has had on school divisions. However, he added that the effect will be limited.

“I think that’s great, but will it lead to a bunch of new things? Nope,” he explained. “That’s not the purpose of it. It’s just to cover those costs.”

The amount each division received is based on the funding distribution formula already used by the province.

“It was per student but it’s kind of similar too because so much of our budget is based on student population,” Bratvold explained. “Even the transportation component has a student number built into it the number of students we transport and all of that stuff.”

Bratvold said that the letter from the province explained that it was based on the transportation and plant operation components of the funding model.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan touted the funding increase as a way to help school divisions prevent inflationary costs from diverting resources away from classrooms.

“Our government recognizes the impacts rising costs across the country have on our schools and we are committed to ensuring every Saskatchewan student and teacher has the supports needed to achieve success in the classroom,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release.

As part of the 2022-23 budget, the Ministry of Education announced a record investment in education spending of $2.88 billion.

That funding included $1.99 billion in school operating funding for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $29.4 million or 1.5 per cent over the 2021-22 school year.

With this additional investment, school operating funding exceeds $2 billion for the first time in the province’s history.

In addition to the increase in operating funding, the province also announced a new $7 million fund to allow school divisions to hire up to 200 new educational assistants for the 2022-23 school year.

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