The public section of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) is also upset with the provincial government's sudden announcement regarding an increase in funding for private schools to 50 per cent and associate schools to 80 per cent.
Bert de Gooijer, chairman of the public section, said the 16-member board he represents, which includes Bryan Wilson from the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, was quite concerned about the ramifications of the move that the provincial government took without consultation with the affected divisions.
“Taking the funds from public school divisions and giving additional funds to private and associate schools could have some real long-term impacts,” de Gooijer said.
“Another key element in the announcement, the way I read it in the newspaper, is that the funding for associate schools will be going directly to them and not through the public board in the division in which they operate,” he added.
“As for funding private schools ... is that what we want done with our public dollars?”
De Gooijer went on to say that since the provincial government took over the funding responsibilities for the schools in Saskatchewan, the formula they are going to use still hasn't been revealed, which leading to people like him being on the outside looking in and wondering exactly what the total economic impacts are going to be once the funding model is rolled out in a couple of months.
“Saskatchewan has a quality public system of education for all children that needs to be valued. Ad hoc changes of this nature without any reasonable form of consultation with key educational partners have the potential to have a negative incremental effect on the quality of education of public school divisions,” de Gooijer said.
When speaking with The Mercury by telephone, de Gooijer said that since the new funding formula hasn't been made public yet, the total overall economic hit that will come with last week's announcement, might never be known.
“We don't know the size of the pie, but we do know that there are now more people wanting shares of it. There has been so much change in the funding aspect of schools, I just can't speculate on how many more direct dollars will be implicated,” he added.
“We have spent the last 10 years undergoing serious changes and creating a lot of efficiencies in the system, and now we're back to the old way of doing things. Will this change in government attitude lead to an increase in the number of private schools in the province? Again, we won't know for awhile. I'm just glad to see you guys (media) picking up on this. We don't know what the public reaction is going to be on this. I do know that public school boards represent about 70 per cent of all the kids in school in the province and we need funding at a proper level because we take in everyone. We don't exclude,” he said.
It is believed there are about 10 to 12 associate schools registered in the province and as many as 40 to 50 private schools.
“We need to be careful not to erode public education capacity as the core providers of education in our province. Now the government appears to be creating funding for select operations. Will the funding come from new money or will it come from the existing pool? Whatever that pool is. Will these changes also impact on capital funding for public school divisions?” de Gooijer said.
He concluded by saying it only made sense for government to gather all perspectives and information before proceeding with changes such as this one, so at this juncture he and the public section board were “very disappointed.”