Wednesday evening, Premier Scott Moe took to social media to announce what would be included for education in the upcoming provincial budget. He stated there would be an increase of $180 million in school operating funding, just over nine percent from the levels for the current fiscal year. Of that, $356 million would be for classroom support.  

In recent years, some school divisions across the province have been dealing with shortfalls in their budgets, trying to do more with funding that hasn’t kept up with inflation. The South East Cornerstone Public School Division is one of those, having posted deficits in recent years, and even needing to lay off staff.  

While the increase in funding is welcome, Keith Keating, the director of education for SECPSD, said it is too early to determine if the funding will help make up the previous gaps in funding.  

“At this time, we don’t know what the particulars are of that increase in budget, or what percentage of that will be taken up by whatever collective agreement might eventually be signed by the teachers,” Keating answered when asked if this would cover the shortfall.  

For school divisions, the revenue received by the provincial government in the form of operating grants is the primary source of revenue, with limits on how they can gain further revenue. The operating grants are provided by the provincial government from the property taxes collected throughout the province and are distributed based on things like student enrollment and staffing.  

The amount provided varies from year to year, and the amount per student varies from year to year as well. A report issued last August from the Fraser Institute showed the amount of money invested in education on a per-student basis was the highest in the nation in the 2012-13 school year, but had declined by 10 percent by 2020-21, the second largest decrease in the nation.  

The province also had the 6th highest spending per student, starting with the decline in the 2017-18 school year.  

“Really, what we’re looking for is we really need sufficient, equitable and sustainable funding that’s predictable from year to year, and in particular, funding that would keep up with the pace of inflation would really help in terms of operations from a division level,” Keating said of the biggest needs when it comes to the operating funding for a division. “You’ve seen a number of years of budget shortfalls within our school division and across the province, so we’re hoping that with this new budget announcement, that helps to equalize some of that.” 

The final details of the provincial budget are expected to be tabled in the Legislature on March 20th.