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Province should quit using teachers, students as political pawns

Ron Walter writes about the state of education in Saskatchewan
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Adding robotics courses to the Saskatchewan Grades 7-12 curriculum is a brilliant plan, even if Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and B.C. are two years ahead of this province in robotics education.

Having coding of computer programs on the curriculum will benefit students. Computers, their operation, and data manipulation are becoming commonly needed skills for the workplace.

Although this is a bright spot in the provincial education scene, much of the scenario is clouded as the province prepares to ignore issues of classroom size and salaries to keep the deficit under control.

The Saskatchewan Government appeared ready to go head on against teachers and other employees in the education process by demanding teachers take a 3.67 per cent cut in salary for the last two years.

That government stand was solid even though MLAs took a 2.3 per cent salary increase this year.

An arbitrator foiled government salary cutting plans with an award to teachers of one per cent this year and none for last year.

The province has said it will pick up the increased cost instead of dumping it on school boards as was done previously.

A Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) bargaining survey showed for the first time ever salaries aren’t the number one issue. Classroom size and classroom composition rated as the top issues of concern for teachers.

With frequent classes of 30 to 40 students, teachers have little time for students with extra needs. One disruptive student in a class can dramatically change the ability to teach or of students to learn.

Another STF survey found 96 per cent of the province’s 13,500 teachers use their own money to buy supplies and equipment for their classes. And over half spend $500 on their classes.

That may not seem so much when teacher salaries range from $46,000 to start to $95,000 after 10 years.

Perhaps the Saskatchewan Government is betting the size of teacher salaries will reduce supporters’ concerns about teacher salaries and education funding.

This government realized the 2018-19 budget mistake when it cut school board funding by $54 million — about three per cent — from the $1.9 billion budget. Extra funding in two tranches of $30 million and $26 million is still insufficient.

The Saskatchewan Government is trying to ignore increased school enrolments across the province without adequate increased funding.

Our students are our future: our future workers, our future teachers, doctors, lawyers, IT workers, business operators, and leaders.

An adequate education is essential to provide students with skills they need to survive and get ahead in their chosen fields.

That is not happening in Saskatchewan, not even with the new robotics courses.

Nor is it happening in Alberta and Ontario where similar conservative-minded governments use education costs as a whipping boy to reduce overspending.

Teachers and students should not be used as political footballs by governments seeking someone to blame for deficits.

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.