NSTU fears cuts to literacy support, province denies claim

Just a few days after Nova Scotia announced a $15 million boost to inclusive education, the teacher's union says it looks like there's a heavy price to pay.

The union says its hearing from teachers and parents about cuts to some early-reading programs. The government says it’s not true.

Last Thursday, the education minister touted a significant investment in the department for the new school year: 173 jobs in all -- new hires in the name of "inclusive education.”

There will be new teachers and education assistants, support workers for African Nova Scotian and Mi'qmaw students and autism teacher specialists, among others.

But all is not as it seems, according to the Nova Scotia Teacher's Union, which says it's been hearing from members and parents who are learning of cuts this fall, especially to a program called “early literacy support.”

“ELS is a targeted intervention,” said NSTU president Paul Wozney. “It's typically done from small groups between one and three students, so this is on top of, or a compliment to reading recovery. They're not equivalent programs and it's really designed to provide struggling readers in Grades 1-3 with that extra boost they need.”

The union has also heard guidance counsellor hours are being spread even thinner.

In a Monday afternoon news release, the NSTU called on the government to release a full list of schools where positions are being eliminated, but the government says it's simply not true.

“Simply put, there have been no cuts,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement to CTV News. “For the 2019-20 school year, there will be more literacy supports and more guidance counsellors provincially than there were last year. How teachers and others are assigned is a fluid process. This allows regions to be flexible to ensure resources are where students need them most. Student population and need is a main consideration when deciding where a person/position will be placed.”

Wozney said the changes have been made at a “very high level.”

“They certainly haven't been communicated to anybody that represents parents,” he said. “They haven't been communicated to the union.”

The education minister was in his constituency office in Yarmouth Monday and was unavailable for comment.

Union officials say this is a classic case where having independent, elected school boards would be helpful, because parents could go them to seek answers, rather than learning about changes through word-of-mouth.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.