By Belle Hatfield
The Tri-County Regional School Board is one of several across the province that will have to make do with less next year, even as provincial spending on education is rising. After several years of cuts, the Department of Education announced Thursday, Feb. 14, that funding for school boards will increase by $3.27 million next year, bringing total funding to $1. 047 billion.
Education Minister Ramona Jennex said in a media release, "We are investing more money per student than ever before."
But, because of declining enrolments, most school boards will not see an increase in their funding. The Tri-County Regional School Board is facing an estimated 2.9 per cent decline from its current enrolment of 6507 students. That decline translates into a 1.10 per cent cut in funding next year, or around $650,000.
The tri-county board’s superintendent Lisa Doucet said, “With any reduction, on top of the reductions we’ve already faced, it is going to be a challenge.”
She said receiving word on next year’s funding this early in the budgetary process will provide senior staff time to crunch the numbers.
“We have to look at the inflationary costs before we understand what the numbers are going to mean to us,” she added.
Five of the province’s eight school boards will see funding levels fall. Only the Acadian school board is expected to see enrolment increase.
In announcing the budget numbers the department said in a media release that no permanent teachers would lose their jobs. According to the release about 170 new teachers will be hired throughout the province. Class sizes for grades primary to three will remain capped at 25 students. The province said boards across the province will be able to maintain their existing complement of program support staff, psychologists and speech language pathologists, which otherwise would have been reduced because of the decline in enrolment.
Next year, the department predicts 2,300 fewer children will be in schools across Nova Scotia. However, the province is protecting areas of largest enrolment decline, by subsidizing their funding.