CUPE education workers call for fully funded education in Sask.

Tuesday was a “Day of Action” on the Saskatchewan Legislative grounds as over 50 education workers, community members, parents and CUPE members gathered to have their voices heard.

They are backing their union in calls for fully funded education in Saskatchewan.

“Saskatchewan children, our kids, deserve better and it is time to do the right thing and fully fund public education systems,” said Rob Westfield, CUPE Education Workers’ Steering Committee chair.

Westfield describes the education budget as an "attack on education” as many school boards are considering program cuts and layoffs.

“The school boards were asking for 4.7 per cent and got 1.5, right, that’s huge,” Westfield said.

Matt Love, education critic, said the province is leaving Saskatchewan children behind as well as those who nurture those students.

“What we have in this year’s budget is an operational increase that doesn’t even come close to maintaining the status quo,” said Love.

He said school support staff have told him they are unable to meet the needs of their students during a work day as classroom sizes and the complex needs of students get bigger.

Love adds the ratio of pupil to professionals is growing and after years of pandemic learning students need more support.

According to the government, class sizes have remained steady over the last three years.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in addition to this budget having a record investment in education there is also $7 million set aside to hire more education assistants.

He said the government is focusing on early years literacy and education assistant’s are important to that development, which is why they wanted to dedicate more support in that area.

“We wanted to provide that additional support, especially school year three of the pandemic, but we also wanted to target it,” said Duncan.

While there is potential to see more education assistants in schools, those currently in the role are being warned of cuts.

Tena Schneider, an education assistant in Fox Valley with Chinook School Division, said she and her colleagues could be losing 30 minutes per day.

“That equates to not a lot for some people, but to a single mom it’s her car payment or her grocery bill. To me it’s an 8.3 per cent reduction in my wage,” explained Schneider, adding students will also feel those impacts.

“My question is where are they going to be? What are they going to do during that time I’m scheduled, or had been scheduled, to be with them?”

Duncan said no budgets have been submitted by any school boards as of yet.