Provincial budget a step backwards for public schools

    HALIFAX, March 23 /CNW/ - The president of the province's 10,500-member
teachers' union says today's provincial budget is "a step backwards" for the
140,000 public school students in Nova Scotia.
    "Over the past three years, Nova Scotia had finally begun to close the
gap between the resources available to our students and those in other
provinces," says Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Mary-Lou Donnelly.
"Today's budget effectively ends that progress.
    "Putting class size reductions, the hiring of specialists and much-needed
classroom resources such as books and technology on hold for another year is
not a stand-still measure. It's a significant step backwards," she says,
referring to promises in the province's "Learning for Life II" plan unveiled
by then Minister of Education Jamie Muir less than two years ago. "This
reduction in crucial classroom materials means that teachers will increasingly
be forced to supply needed resources from their own pockets, and unlike other
professions, there is no tax deduction for teacher-supplied tools."
    Donnelly does admit there is good news for NSTU members employed as
faculty and professional support staff with the Nova Scotia Community College.
"The funding to increase the number of community college seats by 592 is
certainly very welcome news," she says.
    However, she says, she is concerned that the education system has been
left out of the $5 million budgeted to implement the recommendations of the
Nunn Commission. The additional funds will be divided among the Departments of
Health, Community Services and Justice.
    "Teachers have long recognized the need to support at-risk youth and have
been strong advocates for resources to address their needs. Finally, with the
acceptance of Justice Nunn's recommendations, we felt our position had been
    "Where in this budget are the funds to hire the guidance counsellors and
other specialists called for to address the needs of troubled adolescents?"
Donnelly asks. "Where is the early intervention-the required assistance for
students struggling to succeed in our school system?"
    Donnelly adds she is deeply disappointed with the inability of both the
federal and provincial governments to follow through on their commitments.
    "A year is a long time in the life of a child," says Donnelly. "What
lesson are we as adults teaching our students when we can't honour our
commitments to each other or to them?"

For further information:

For further information: Paul McCormick, (902) 477-5621,

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Nova Scotia Teachers Union

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