Education Minister Clyde Jackman says the provincial government will continue to channel maximum funding for education into classrooms and maintain the best pupil-teacher ratio of any province in Canada.
In a news release, Jackman said student enrolment has declined by 14,000, or 17 per cent, since 2004, and there was a need to examine all organizational and administrative supports.
The Department of Education first identified more than $6 million in efficiencies in the departmental budget. Further streamlining of services will be achieved, he said, through the establishment of two provincial school boards in Newfoundland and Labrador as of September 2013 — one English and one French-language board.
“The next steps will include the establishment of a transition team, with representation from across the province, and advertising for a provincial board CEO,” said Minister Jackman. “The internal structure and organization of the provincial board will be finalized prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year.”
About $537 million, almost 64 per cent of the entire education budget, is approved for teachers’ salaries, substitute teachers, student assistants, professional development, and various services for teachers.
Reductions have been made in areas such as administration, learning resources support and district-based numeracy supports.
This will result in the equivalent of 142 fewer positions assigned for the 2013-14 school year, with a further reduction of 18 positions as a direct result of enrolment decline. However, there will be more than 5,400 teaching positions allocated to the education system in September 2013, and with about 550 teachers eligible to retire this year, there is no expectation of teacher job losses.
“There will be no reduction in the allocation of regular classroom teachers assigned to deliver the required curriculum, no reduction in direct services or supports for students with special needs, no changes to K-9 class size caps for the required curriculum, and that we are able the maintain a pupil-teacher ratio that is the envy of the country,” Jackman said.
Some education budget items:
• $620 million for new schools, extensions, redevelopments, renovations and repairs and maintenance to existing infrastructure;
• $59 million for distance learning, through the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI);
• $50 million for the elimination of standard school fees;
• $20 million for the expansion of the free textbook to all K-12 students;
• $17.5 million for the Excellence in Math Strategy;
• $17.4 million for music, theatre and visual arts programming and equipment through the Cultural Connections Strategy;
• $16.4 million for interactive whiteboards and computers;
• $8.8 million for the Futures in Skilled Trades program;
• $5.6 million for lab safety upgrades and science equipment; and,
• $4.3 million for initiatives approved under the early childhood learning strategy, Learning From the Start.