Nova Scotia’s government departments are far from out of the woods budget-wise, but at least education is in for a bit of a break following years of paring to the bone.
When the Liberals’ platform included putting more money into classrooms, a lot of people could be forgiven if they took the promise with a grain of salt. A pledge during an election campaign, as we’re all aware, is often not carried out, and a province heavily in debt has a ready-made excuse.
The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, as it gets set to release the coming year’s budget this week, indicates it will be in a position to hire more teachers, thanks to the funding increase. That’s fitting indeed, since the government also said it wanted to cap class sizes to take strain off the learning experience.
The improved outlook, however, comes not without questions about what might come in the future. The funding cuts over the past several years were hard to argue against, given the continuing decline in enrolment. The former government maintained that the status quo in funding couldn’t be maintained given the surplus of school space.
On that same subject, the board is still grappling with the possibility of closing several schools next year, including in River John, Wentworth and Maitland – or granting an extension – with a vote coming this week.
Education is one of those high-priority, high-profile government responsibilities. Although the province is severely strapped for cash and not brimming with revenue sources, cuts aimed at education always meet with loud disapproval – understandably, any prospect of growing the economy goes hand-in-hand with having an educated population.
The boost for education this year is great news. But realistically, we have to expect it comes at the expense of cutting in other areas, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Another alternative is putting off a balanced budget, but this province can't put that off much longer.