Minister urges patience on school board budget cuts

James
James McLeod
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Education Minister Clyde Jackman says he can’t intercede with school board decisions because they operate autonomously with elected trustees. Jackman took some flak in the House Tuesday from the opposition about cuts. — Telegram file photo

Education Minister Clyde Jackman denied Tuesday that he’s been meddling in the affairs of the Eastern School District, and pushing for budget cuts without board trustees getting to vote on it.

That accusation came from opposition politicians and Eastern School District Trustee George Joyce, who said in a news release Monday trustees were being cut out of the loop on millions of dollars in funding cuts at the school board.

Jackman called it “fear mongering” and said that people will just have to wait for the budget to see what may or may not be cut.

“We have consulted with school boards, just as other departments are, to see if we can find efficiencies,” Jackman said.

“The member will have to wait until the budget comes down, but, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you one thing: the front-line services in education have been protected.”

Joyce, who ran for the Liberals in the 2011 general election, said the executive is making $7.5 million in cuts, without keeping the elected board trustees in the loop.

The accusation comes at an awkward time for Jackman, who has been trying to distance himself from politically problematic school closures.

Jackman has insisted that because school boards are autonomous, with elected trustees who make decisions, he can’t intercede to prevent a school from being closed, even if he might want to.

“The minister of education likes to try and hide behind the autonomy of elected schools trustees when he is closing schools, but the minister tramples on that same autonomy when it suits his purposes,” New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby said Tuesday during question period in the House.

“Last fall, the minister met with the school district CEOs and he gave them his marching orders

on the cuts he wants to see to schools.

“Can the minister tell us exactly how much he told those CEOs to cut?”

Jackman responded that he isn’t exactly giving marching orders.

“What we asked the school boards to do is to review to see if there are efficiencies that can be found, Mr. Speaker,” he said.

“Government has invested $50 million so that parents and students do not have to pay fees. Mr. Speaker, do not question our commitment to education.”

The provincial budget will be tabled in the House of Assembly next Tuesday.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: School district CEOs

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  • Barbara Colbourne
    March 20, 2013 - 06:50

    People, please. School board CEOs are under the direct ruling thumb of the Minister just as Health Board CEOs are under the thumb of the Minister of Health. These are government run institutions. That's just the way it is in NL.