School boards should have some say in how money is spent, Marks says
NEW GLASGOW – Money is always welcomed into the education budget, but where it is being spent is a concern, says a Chignecto-Central Regional School Board member.
Ron Marks of Stellarton said the Liberal government’s announcement that $65 million would be returned to province’s education budget over four years is good news, but he said targeting where that money will go isn’t helpful to boards that struggle with unique problems.
“One doesn’t want to be too critical of this budget, but all of the money is targeted,” he said, adding the CCRSB is concerned with mental health issues in younger students and could have used funding to help strengthen these resources.
The entire $9.6-billion Liberal budget forecasts a deficit of $279 million in 2014-15 which is mainly due to a bump in personal income tax, overall departmental spending has increased by $455 million resulting in the deficit.
In education, the government will spend $18.6 million this year, including $7.2 million toward capping class sizes from Primary to Grade 2. Another $3.5 million has been set aside for early literacy initiatives including the re-introduction of a reading program.
Marks said these are both two good measures, but the CCRSB was able to retain an early reading program so any money going to it now will be extra.
He said he would have rather seen the provincial government formulate its education funding so that 75 per cent of the money was targeted, but boards could spend another 25 per cent as they see fit.
“There is a need to increase funds for mental health,” he said. “We have a lot of troubled young children in elementary school and this effects other children in the classrooms.”
From a higher education point of view students expressed shock that the government will be eliminating the Graduate Retention Rebate without reallocating funding to support youth success in Nova Scotia. Compared with new expenditures on supporting student and graduate employment, the Province will be saving approximately $33.85 million in 2014-15.
“We’re shocked that this government is deciding to take funding away from students and graduates with this budget, just one month after the Ivany Commission report highlighted the importance of young people for our province’s future,” said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “Eliminating the Graduate Retention Rebate without reinvesting in supporting our young people is a betrayal of our students and graduates.”
The budget also delivers the fourth consecutive year of real cuts in university operating funding. StudentsNS said students are very worried about the implications of these cuts for quality of education and support services. Also, these cuts have been offset by increases in tuition at 3 per cent per year for domestic undergraduate and graduate students, and even higher rates for international and professional students.
“Just as all Nova Scotians, and especially our young people, are being called upon to turn our province around, the province is taking funding away from students and graduates,” said StudentsNS Chair, Amy Brierley. “When it is imperative to keep graduates in the province, this budget sends the message that investing in youth is not a priority.”
The Province is following through on promises to create a graduate student scholarship program, eliminate interest on student loans and introduce a Graduate to Opportunities Program. These programs will deliver important benefits to students, Students NS stated but none will be fully implemented in 2014-15 to the extent suggested in the government’s election platform. The budget will also expand the Student Career Skills Development and Strategic Cooperative Education Incentive Programs.