Inadequate funding for increasingly complex job of educating children

To the Editor:    

More education funding cuts! For the 2019-20 school year, we will see another year of provincial government funding cuts to education in Thompson, which have resulted in cutbacks to the School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) budget. This is the third year in a row that education funding increments have been below the rate of inflation. This will have a tremendous impact on students and learning, especially in the areas of diverse needs and programming, resulting in fewer resources, larger class sizes and less support for student needs.

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Over the years, there has been an increase in the diversity and complexity of students in classrooms. Teachers are seeing more and more students who need a variety resources in order to assist with their learning.These resources range from needing educational assistant time, to materials for use by students and teachers. Unfortunately, these resources are becoming less available as there are fewer funds to ensure they are provided. Also, the special needs provincial funding has been unchanged since 2016 so it has become a challenge at budget time to meet the needs of the most vulnerable students as funds need to come from other areas of the budget.

Programs to assist with this complexity of student needs are also being cut. The full-day kindergarten program will be cut for this coming September. Students coming to this program were getting more time to develop their skills and more attention given to needs. Now those opportunities have been lost!

Another result of cuts to funding to education is the increase of kindergarten to Grade 3 class sizes. Over the past two years, and this year as well, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of kindergarten to Grade 3 classes with over 20 students in the classroom. The larger the class size, the more difficult it is for students to receive one-on-one assistance. Students in larger classes also see less support for behaviours which can have an effect on other students and their learning. It also takes longer to complete learning activities in larger classes because teachers are working with many students in the class.

The kindergarten to Grade 3 classes provide the essential foundation for learning and it is crucial that students get ample learning experiences and more one-on-one support at this level which can not occur in a large class with diverse complexities.

The provincial government likes to pretend that they have given a funding increase to education here in Thompson. But the numbers in the SDML budge prove the actual decrease in education funding! The school district is getting less money for the funding of education since 2017. A decrease in provincial and local funding has a profound effect on programming for students in the SDML and will have a negative impact on their opportunities to succeed. I encourage parents, community members and, of course, teachers to participate in the province’s kindergarten to Grade 12 review and voice their concerns over the underfunding of education.

We need to tell the provincial government to provide stable, sustainable education funding, because children are our greatest resource and we must invest accordingly to ensure they are given the best chances of success. You should also write to our local MLA Kelly Bindle to voice your concern. Our students are our future and we need to take care of them by giving them the best possible education!

Cathy Pellizarro

Thompson Teachers’ Association President

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