Forced Amalgamation of School Divisions

Res #: 18-04M
Number: 18
Year: 2004
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Learning

Resolution No. 18-04M

WHEREAS, the provincial government has proposed the forced amalgamation of rural public school divisions; and

WHEREAS, the rural public school divisions are proposed to be reduced from sixty to thirteen; and

WHEREAS, this amalgamation will not save money, but cost more for administration; and WHEREAS, local input will be less than the present system;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that SARM oppose the forced amalgamation of rural public school divisions.

Response from the Honourable Andrew Thomson, Minister of Learning:

As you are probably aware, on November 12, 2004, I was presented with a map of restructured Saskatchewan school division boundaries and subdivisions by the Education Equity Task Force. The Government of Saskatchewan has accepted the task force's recommendation of new school division boundaries and will enact these boundaries effective January 1, 2006. As a result of these changes, the total number of school divisions in our province will be reduced to 34 new divisions from the 81 existing divisions, and all school divisions will now qualify for a provincial grant.

Government's decision to move forward on education financing reform with a focus on renewing and restructuring school divisions was due in large part to the recurring message from the people of Saskatchewan that we need to change the way we finance and structure our school system. We need to ensure that the maximum amount of money available for education can be dedicated to student services and instruction for all our children of this province, regardless of geographic location. Restructuring is not about saving money.

The primary purpose of restructuring is to increase equity in education opportunities for students and equity for taxpayers by creating a sustainable and effective governance structure for the Saskatchewan education system. Any savings that may occur by reducing school division governance and administration would be channeled into programs and services for students. I want to assure you that the initiative to renew and restructure school divisions will not be at the cost of local involvement in the education system.

The Government of Saskatchewan understands and supports our citizens' strong desire for local involvement and sense of personal investment in our schools and communities. Larger divisions have successfully reinstated school advisory councils, and local involvement will continue to be a valuable part of the province's education system. Our department will focus efforts on developing a new mechanism at the local level that will build on the philosophies of local school board trustees, local school advisory councils, and the SchoolPlus initiative. This new mechanism will also incorporate a new role for teachers, parents, ratepayers and community agencies in schools at the community level to maintain local accountability.

We will make sure that communities and parents are actively involved in their schools in the larger divisions. We have asked the Restructuring Coordinating Committee, comprised of representatives of the education community, to develop recommendations to ensure that communities and parents are actively involved in their schools in the larger divisions. Past experiences with restructuring into larger school divisions have resulted in concrete benefits for students. I believe these new school divisions with larger enrolment of students will increase the stability and number of programs for students, add additional supports for students with special needs, and offer the ability for your school board to provide enhanced curriculum implementation and teacher professional development.

In addition, a school division of this size will have increased purchasing power due to economies of scale.