by David C. D'Aoust
MONTREAL, Nov. 24, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) is deeply concerned about the likely impact of last Tuesday's provincial budget on English public school classrooms across Quebec. While the budget does call for a 1.8 per cent increase (the rough equivalent of $18 million for Quebec's nine English school boards) to cover education system costs like salaries, heating, transportation, student services and building maintenance, the number doesn't come close to covering real costs. QESBA estimates that the final budget calculations could prove to be very detrimental to the English public school system and the 105,000 youth and adult students it serves.
We have a singular preoccupation as we assess this budget, on behalf of the teachers, administrators, professionals and support staff who work with us and in the name of the students, parents and communities we serve each day: Will it guarantee and support the capacity of our member school boards to deliver the continued quality services our students require? Now, it is always dangerous to evaluate a budget before the accompanying spending estimates and rules have been released. (This first PQ budget was as bereft of details and supporting numbers as any in recent memory.) That said, QESBA's early assessment is that its net impact will actually result in some $11.7 million in operational funding cuts to English public schooling in Quebec.
Can our students be fully shielded from such cuts? No.
Despite the government's protestations to the contrary, and what will continue to be our intensive efforts to protect services to students, make no mistake: there will be an impact on classroom.
QESBA understands that public education must do its part in difficult economic times. Still, our schools and the students who graduate from them are forces for future development and prosperity -- when a government provides them the necessary tools. We worry that they have failed to do so in this budget.
A few cases in point:
- Some $150 million will be removed from equalization funding provided to school boards to supplement school tax revenues. That is a huge loss that boards will be invited to either recuperate by imposing additional burdens on taxpayers in certain territories or through further cuts. Neither option augers well for public education sustainability and success.
- Within the announced system-cost allocations, school boards must find funds for a series of initiatives that are of almost no value to English public schools, namely English-intensive second language instruction at Grade 6 and a modest planned reduction of class sizes at Secondary I and II. The first measure, originally introduced by the Charest government, is for French schools only. The second only affects high schools with larger populations than the vast majority of those in the English sector.
- The same 1.8-per-cent to cover system costs must finance, and only modestly, improvements to programs in culture and sports and resources for students with special needs. These measures, while laudable, were already announced by the previous government. Furthermore, planned expenditures for the "École 2.0 : la classe branchée" program - a problematic but promising initiative to enhance teaching with new technologies - are to come from this same pot.
- We anticipate that an announced cut of $1.5 billion in over-all infrastructure funding across Quebec will hit the 15-year plan that had been put at the disposal of school boards across Quebec to affect much-needed maintenance and safety improvements to aging schools. This is not window dressing. Quality instruction requires safe, positive and welcoming school environments. Cuts in this program will stall important work towards that end.
The nine member boards of QESBA must count on this government - particularly in tough economic times -- to work in partnership with us to properly prepare our 105,000 students for Quebec's future. That partnership, the very future of our students' success, is at some risk today. QESBA will be watching with intense interest the current budget debate, the promised omnibus bill accompanying it as well as the release of the spending estimates and specific budget rules. At each step, we will remain determined to maintain and enhance services to students across Quebec. We expect this government to honor its stated commitment to those same objectives.
David C. D'Aoust is the President of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).
SOURCE: QUEBEC ENGLISH SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION
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