‘The math is off:’ School division CFO on province’s claim of sufficient funding

After reading about how the province has allegedly provided sufficient educational funding since 2007, the chief financial officer for Moose Jaw’s Catholic division decided to analyze those statements to determine whether they reflected reality.

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On Feb. 6, NDP Opposition Leader Carla Beck stood with concerned parents and grandparents outside St. Agnes School to address concerns about educational funding cuts, which the families said would negatively affect their kids since they had autism.

Days later, the provincial government sent comments to the Moose Jaw Express/MooseJawToday.com in response to the news conference and families’ concerns. 

After coming across the article, Curt Van Parys, CFO of Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, reviewed the information and focused on three comments the province provided, given the concerns that other divisions have experienced with funding lately. 

He then wrote an analytical report and presented it during the most recent board of education meeting.

One of the province’s comments was, “Since 2016-2017, the total number of classroom teachers has increased by nearly 120 FTEs (full-time equivalent teachers). There were 9,477.2 FTEs in 2016-2017 and there were 9,595.7 FTEs in 2023-2024. There were 179,707 students in 2016-17 and there were 195,582 students in 2023-2024.”

In his analysis, Van Parys said the increase of 120 FTE teacher positions represented a 1.25-per-cent increase, whereas the student increase during the same period was 8.83 per cent. Therefore, if teacher FTEs increased at the same rate as the students’, he determined an extra 848 teachers — rather than 120 — should be working in Saskatchewan, or 728 more teachers.

Also, since Holy Trinity has roughly 1.25 per cent of the provincial student population, its share of the 728 additional teachers should be roughly 9.10 FTEs more than now.

The province’s second comment was, “Since 2007, we have increased school operating funding by $665 million, a 47 per cent increase, while enrolment has increased by just 16 per cent.”

“(I) had some fun with this one … in terms of comparing not only that with the student increase, but there is this thing called inflation. And (I) also just compared inflation since 2007,” said Van Parys.

His analysis showed that since 2007, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Saskatchewan had increased by 43.1 per cent, while funding had increased by 47 per cent. Since student growth has been 16 per cent, “it can be reasonably argued” that funding should have increased by at least the rate of inflation and the rate of student growth — which both total 59.1 per cent.

“If funding had kept pace with both inflation and student growth, funding would have increased by $836 million rather than $665 million, a difference of $171 million,” the CFO’s analytical report said. Meanwhile, the division’s share of that $171 million would have been $2,137,500.

Van Parys told the board that, interestingly, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation’s salary grid has increased by 48.1 per cent since January 2007. 

The province’s third comment was, “There were almost 4,500 educational assistants (EAs) working in Saskatchewan schools for the 2023-2024 school year. This is an increase of nearly 400 compared to the 2022-2023 school year and almost 700 more in the past two years. Since 2016-2017, EAs have increased by 1,089 or 76 per cent.”

Based on the alleged increase in EA numbers and the supposed total, the report said there would have been 3,411 EAs in 2016-17. However, the addition of 1,089 EA spots represents an increase of 31.9 per cent instead of 76 per cent, as the province said.

“The math is a bit off … ,” said Van Parys. 

Furthermore, several school divisions have experienced growth in EA positions after receiving funding through a First Nations-focused federal program called Jordan’s Principle, which the provincial statement does not address, the report added. 

The next Holy Trinity board meeting is Monday, April 8. 

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