Graduation rates stuck as government shorts school funding

During years of resource boom, the Sask. Party government failed to improve overall graduation rates one bit – and with the Sask. Party scrapping the mid-year funding deal for schools, the NDP says the challenge will get tougher.

In a Public Accounts Committee meeting at the legislature on Wednesday, officials revealed that Sask. Party promises to improve the province’s 74.8 per cent high school graduation rate has not been kept. In fact, overall graduation rates haven’t budged. 

That disappointing fact was revealed just as new cuts and challenges are hitting classrooms. Hundreds of new students joined schools after the start of the year, and continue to join throughout the year, now including hundreds of refugees being welcomed to the province. All that new enrolment won’t be funded by the government.

“Educators started off this school year being told by the Sask. Party to do more with less,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “With the government’s refusal to fund mid-year enrolment increases, the dollars in every school have to go even further.

“The result is cuts – from teachers and educational assistants in some divisions, to school lunch supervision programs and bussing routes in others. School fees parents have to pay go up, and the resources schools need to make sure every child gets the one-on-one attention they need are going way down. It’s not fair to anyone – students, educators or parents. And, frankly, shorting the next generation is also not what’s right for Saskatchewan’s future.”

Wotherspoon said Saskatchewan needs urgent mid-year funding adjustments to accommodate enrolment changes. He also said setting a graduation rates target is great – but meaningless without a powerful strategy to make progress.

“Smaller class sizes, an effective educational assistant ratio and proper supports for English as an Additional Language instruction help students keep up. Without changes like that, progress is simply not going to happen,” said Wotherspoon, who also noted that adding the toxic John Black Lean program into education, as the Sask. Party is now doing, is a huge mistake.

“Bleeding resources to pay consultants and train educators on how to Lean the classroom is not going to help students learn, and it’s not going to improve graduation rates. Paying to spread Lean into the education sector is a massively misplaced Sask. Party priority, and a road students just can’t afford for us to go down.”