As we enter Education Week in Saskatchewan (Oct. 15 – 21), there is a need to fully appreciate the consequences of the March 2017 provincial budget on our students and staff. You simply cannot cut $22 million out of this sector and not notice the effects.
I think it’s important that we ask not only what, but who has been cut out of education? Whether it is the bus service that is no longer available to get kids to school, the absence of the library tech as a resource for students or cuts to the maintenance staff, it is noticed by the students, parents and staff at the many schools that have been hit with cuts and layoffs. And it doesn’t stop there.
Many of our incredibly skilled and dedicated members also work as education assistants (EA). They struggle to provide the support in the classroom for kids with special learning needs and additional language support for new Canadians, and face daily challenges due to inadequate staffing.
During the last provincial election, the Saskatchewan Party government promised to do ‘catch up’ in the support for children with autism spectrum disorder to ensure that there would be enough professionals in our communities. Clearly this promise has not been kept.
An EA’s role in the classroom is to build a one-on-one relationship with special needs students and to establish a foundation on which these children can learn and flourish. Unfortunately, our children are not getting the focused support they need. Instead, there is often only one EA to work with three or more students at one time. Due to funding cuts at the hands of the same government that pledged added supports, EAs have been cut out of the classroom.
Who pays for the government’s poor decision making? Ultimately, we all do. Now is the time to contact our elected MLAs to ask questions about education funding — to demand that we do better for students and staff. If we do not stand up and demand better from our elected leaders, we will all pay for their bad decisions.
Barbara Cape, president, SEIU-West