The elimination of 11 teaching positions by the Brandon School Division board on Monday has drawn the ire of Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum.
In a statement issued to the Brandon Sun late Tuesday afternoon, the minister said the decision to cut teaching positions is "completely contrary to what parents expect from them and what our government has been working very hard towards.
"Parents want more teachers in the classroom, not fewer."
By a vote of seven to one, board trustees passed the 2014-15 budget, which includes plans to cut 11 full-time positions and post a 2.9 per cent tax increase.
The 11 full-time teaching positions include one from a high school-level speciality program, one from divisional learning support services and nine from yet to be determined grade levels.
The elimination of the teaching positions, which comes into effect in September, will result in $880,000 in reductions to the division’s nearly $90-million budget.
In his statement, Allum said funding to Brandon schools has increased by more than $9 million over the last three years, for a total contribution of $44.5 million from the province.
He also said there are 96 more teachers in Brandon this year, compared with three years ago, "because of our investments in school funding and our class size initiative.
"There is no reason for the Brandon School Division to eliminate teaching positions," Allum said. "With our additional funding of $2.3 million this year, I think they can find savings that won't affect classrooms with no additional tax increases."
BSD board chair Mark Sefton previously told the Sun that even with the provincial funding increase — and no plans to add new teaching staff or new programs for the upcoming school year — the division was still facing a $1.3-million deficit.
Salaries account for about 85 per cent of the school division’s budget, and for the division to maintain the same level of staffing and programming as this current school year, taxes would have had to increase by four per cent.
When reached by the Sun Tuesday evening, Sefton said the minister’s figures weren’t incorrect, but he took issue with the suggestion that cutting teachers wasn’t a necessary decision.
"We believe our job is to strike the balance between the needs of the students, and concerns of the community over taxation," Sefton said. "We feel that we struck that balance. It’s not an easy balance to achieve.
"Clearly we have a different opinion than the minister does."
Sefton also said that the school division board, not the province, decided to reduce staffing — a move that has been in discussion since August of last year.
"We made that decision and it’s ours to wear, for good or for bad."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 12, 2014