YELLOWKNIFE (5 December, 2016) - Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) Minister Alfred Moses met with Education Board Chairs on Friday to discuss matters of mutual interest and to plan for future actions. The Minister and Board Chairs typically meet every six months.
Board Chairs brought forward a number of issues including Junior Kindergarten (JK) funding, postponing new initiatives until adequate levels of funding and resources are available; the pupil/teacher ratio; cancelling the proposed Territorial Support Team and funding employee salaries at actual costs.
Minister Moses provided Board Chairs with a presentation on GNWT fiscal realities and said the GNWT is currently in a period of reductions. There was agreement that these are challenging times for government which demands creativity in the education system to support a strong focus on improved educational outcomes.
Board Chairs were concerned by the prospect of further reductions occurring at the same time as they are being asked to implement JK which they said will result in some additional costs including bussing.
The Minister announced that the GNWT will be investing an additional $2 million towards the cost of JK. Collectively, Boards will find $3 million from within their current K-12 funding for a total cost of $5 million. ECE staff also clarified that in the initial implementation, JK students will not be included in the count for the purposes of determining funding for inclusive schooling which enabled the initial implementation costs for JK to be reduced from $6million to $5million.
While Board Chairs expressed support for JK, they continue to request it be fully funded and expressed concern that programs for students will be impacted if full funding is not provided. Minister Moses said he will ask ECE staff to review the costs once more to see if further savings can be found.
Board Chairs also requested that plans for a Territorial Support Team of professionals, such as speech pathologists, trauma counselors and educational psychologists, be postponed and that inclusive schooling funding be returned to 2011-12 funding levels. Board Chairs did not want those changes made at this time, preferring to focus energies on the implementation of JK if that is the priority. Minister Moses said he understands the Board Chairs’ concerns and will review the current plans.
Board Chairs expressed a desire to improve the reference in the Education Act to the pupil/teacher ratio which is used as a method of funding teachers. The Northwest Territories pupil/teacher ratio is currently at 13.4:1 in comparison to the Canadian average of 13.8:1 and is well below the NWT legislated level of 16:1.
Board Chairs also requested that the Minister consider funding actual negotiated employee salary and benefits costs including casual/substitute teacher costs for all staff. The Minister advised that the funding formula is in keeping with that of the whole GNWT and while he will review it he is guided by the policies and procedures of the government as a whole.
A series of updates on initiatives such as the Aboriginal Languages Framework and the Aboriginal Languages and Culture-based Education Directive, Inclusive Schooling, the Early Childhood Development and Learning Framework, High School Pathways and Graduation and the K-12 Accountability Framework were also provided to Board Chairs.
Minister Moses said, “We had a very productive meeting with a lot of positive discussion. There is no doubt we all have the welfare and success of students and teachers at heart. We found many areas of agreement but have to be aware of what we need to do compared to what we can afford to do. We must be mindful of the government’s fiscal position and move ahead with creative ways to bring improvements to student success. I believe we are a strong team and can work together to make the education system the best it can be.”
On behalf of Board Chairs, Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency Chair Ted Blondin said, “Board Chairs were pleased by the positive nature of the meeting. We agreed that we can reach all our goals in partnership and should ensure that students remain the focus of our thinking.”
The next meeting is planned for April 28, 2017.
For more information please contact:
Chair, YK #1
Manager Public Affairs
Department of Education, Culture and Employment
(867) 767-9346 ex.71073