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Province backs off cut to school budgets

 

Education Minister Don McRae has announced a complete reversal of the government’s previous directive that local school boards must fund a retroactive 1.5% wage increase for school staff out of their existing budgets.

McRae acknowledged that the reversal followed the unanimous rejection of the government’s directive by school boards across the province.

“You have indicated to me quite clearly that in light of budget uncertainties and the timing of district budget process that the savings cannot be generated without either reducing service levels or transferring costs to the public,” said McRae in a January 23rd, 2013 letter sent to all school boards.

The Minister’s directive came under the province’s Cooperative Gains Mandate in which public sector employers were offered the ability to negotiate modest wage increases as long as those increases could be found within existing budgets, service delivery levels are maintained, and costs are not passed on to the public.

According to School District 5 (SD5) Board chair, Frank Lento, the Board is satisfied with McRae’s response but still wonders at the logic of the original directive.

“I think the Minister has recognized somewhat belatedly that the government’s struggles with financial management shouldn’t fall on the backs of our students,” said Lento. “Indeed, the way to deal with our fiscal challenges should be through investing even more in the education of our children so that each has the tools to succeed in the future economy. That’s what I call ‘cooperative gains’.”

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