REGINA - The government is reporting a noticeable jump in enrolment of students in Saskatchewan, and more money to school divisions as a result.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan rose in the House Wednesday to announce that “almost 190,000 students have registered in kindergarten to grade 12 this year, an increase of almost 4,000 students from last year."
According to the account in Hansard, Duncan said:
“This is the largest enrolment growth in the province in over 20 years. Mr. Speaker, I certainly believe that this is something that we can be proud of. To support this growth in enrolment, we’re providing an additional $15.5 million to school divisions in the 2022-23 school year. And we’re able to provide this funding because of the strong economic position of our province. This is truly growth that works for everyone.
“Mr. Speaker, we’ve come very far from the days of the NDP government who were preparing for a decline of 30,000 students in our education system, and an NDP Education minister at the time said he was “fine” with these declining numbers. We’ve taken a different approach. We want enrolment numbers to grow in this province. We want to meet the challenges of that growth, and that’s why our government is making record investments into the provincial education sector.”
Duncan pointed to Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions receiving over $2 billion for 2022-23, the largest operating funding in the history of Saskatchewan, and the addition of more than 400 educational assistants in the classroom, delivering important in-class support for thousands of students. He also pointed to an additional $20 million to assist with rising fuel and insurance costs.
In speaking to reporters afterwards Duncan noted the enrolment numbers were “certainly higher than school divisions had been projecting earlier this spring.”
“The challenge we would have had without this additional money is that essentially the pot of money for school divisions announced in the spring budget would have been divided amongst more students. And so it would have meant some readjustments in what school divisions were expecting for their operational budgets this school year.”
This $15.5 million will allow those school divisions, particularly the ones experiencing significant growth, to put more teachers in the classrooms and perhaps portables and things of that nature.
Duncan called it great news, showing “that the province is growing at a pretty significant rate.” It also showed a return in their immigration numbers including from Ukraine.
In his remarks in the Legislature, Education Critic Matt Love said “we absolutely share in the news that we’re seeing increased enrolment in our schools. This is a good thing.”
But Love added it “doesn’t mean that we are where we need to be when it comes to supporting learning in our schools.” He referenced comments from a Regina teacher who said, “I love my job, but you guys sure are making it tough.”
“What I’m hearing from teachers and families is we are a long way from meeting the needs of our children and youth to thrive in our classrooms,” Love said in meeting the media afterwards.
He noted that school divisions were facing challenges meeting the needs of students with intensive support needs. He noted Saskatoon Public Schools spends $11 million more every year than what they get from the government just in terms of intensive needs students.
“School divisions are under massive challenges to meet those needs without adequate and sustainable funding from the provincial government,” said Love. He also says he’s heard about lack of access to EAs and speech language pathologists.
“Those needs are permanent and they’re not being addressed by funding provided by the Sask Party government.”