As the Education Critic from 2009 – 2013 when this province was under an NDP government, I had written many articles, raised many issues in the Legislature and questioned the Minister of the day continuously about the lack of support for public education in this province. It was during that time it was blatantly obvious that education was not a priority and that funding cuts to education were being implemented without any regard for the students who would be negatively impacted by those cuts. It was very frustrating and disappointing to watch this happen knowing that for many students it was interfering with their learning to a point where some students will have difficulty recovering. That was not acceptable.
As the Minister of Education I am very pleased to be part of a government elected on October 8th that has identified very clearly that education is a priority. We know that there are limited dollars available in this province, we also know that every economist will tell you that during difficult times one of the last places a government should cut funding is from education. Our Government understands that. To that end we stated clearly in our platform that we would reinvest $65 million that had been cut from the classrooms by the NDP government.
As I prepare the Budget for the Department of Education for the fiscal year 2014/15, I am attempting to respond to the concerns that have been brought to our attention by parents and teachers. I have stated that the model for allocating money to School Boards based totally on enrollment does not work. This means there will be funding attached to programs that we know provide opportunities for our students regardless of the enrollment in a school. Some of these programs are related to skill trades, others are related to students with special needs. We will also be implementing a class cap in the Elementary grades and we will be looking to redirect more money into the classrooms to support all students at all grades.
Efficiencies can always be found and it is our intent to make better use of the funds within the Education Department. It will be difficult to recover and repair the damage done during the last four years, however, I am optimistic that a new attitude and appreciation for learning, a focus on math and literacy skills at all grade levels and the support from my Government to identify education as a priority will move us toward a better education system where no student is left behind.