Latest education announcement more smoke and mirrors

Statement from the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers.

Premier Scott Moe recently announced updates to the provincial governments “Safe Schools Plan” still falls short of the measures parents and staff are calling for.

Last week, Minister Gordan Wyant said that school divisions were able to access the province’s $200 million contingency fund, but that “no school division has asked for any additional funding at this point in time.” Yesterday Moe announced that a paltry $40 million of this funding would be available to school divisions – but only on an application basis.

An additional $40 million shared by over 800 schools does not go very far in ensuring safe environments for our students and staff.

Further analysis of the spending shows that our government is just regurgitating previously announced funding from March and only now some of it will be made available to school divisions. Does our government realize that announcing this additional funding now means very little to school divisions who already had to adjust their safe re-opening plans, which the government approved on August 4th?

Moe announced $10 million to purchase masks – a measure that was already announced weeks ago. They announced $20 million for pandemic related costs including staffing and sanitation supplies, but they are still allowing school divisions to cut cleaning staff. They announced $10 million to enhance non-classroom options for immunocompromised and medically fragile students but have still not implemented any protections for staff facing the same issues.”

There is no commitment to reduce class sizes. The news release only says, “additional staff to reduce class sizes in exceptional circumstances will be considered.” Isn’t COVID-19 an exceptional circumstance? Isn’t now the time to ensure appropriate staffing levels and classroom sizes in all school divisions?

When Moe was asked if this funding can go to improving school HVAC (ventilation) systems, Moe stated his government spent lots of money on 65 new schools and capital projects including improved HVAC systems. This is hardly something to boast about, as hundreds of schools still need improvements to ventilation.

Moe says that each school will announce their individual plan on August 26th. That means we have one extra week before students return to school. One week of extra time to do what? The only guidance or direction coming from our government is for staff to figure out a way to prepare students as young as six on how to manage their personal responsibility to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The smoke and mirrors routine this government continues to perform is ridiculous and chaotic. CUPE members and staff deserve better. Our communities deserve better. Our children definitely deserve better then what this government is offering.

Jackie Christianson
EWSC Chairperson

/cope491 /cope342