Sask. gets $39M from Federal Government for Early Education

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Sask. gets $39M from Federal Government for Early Education

Saskatchewan’s education minister says federal money for early childhood education could be in place as early as next fall.  

by Morgan Modjeski, Saskatoon StarPhoenix   June 12, 2017   

Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan plays with a young child in Ottawa during an annoucement that will see $39 million in federal funding flow to Saskatchewan for Early Learning and Child Care improvements on June 12, 2017. Some in the education sector say the funding is welcome news as there is a growing need for Early Learning and Child Care supports in the province.(SUPPLIED/GOVERNMENT OF SASKATCHEWAN)  

Don Morgan was in Ottawa on Monday to attend the funding announcement, which includes $13 million annually over three years for Saskatchewan through the federal government’s Early Learning and Child Care Framework agreement.

The government has committed $7.5 billion to the provinces and territories over 11 years, with $1.2 billion over three years specifically earmarked for early year and child care programs.

Morgan said the money will be used to improve quality, inclusivity and accessibility.

“We know that we have a diverse province,” he said. “We have our First Nations partners that we want to work with and we also have a large number of early-years special learners that have got unique needs … so we want to try and do the things that we can to try and help those children as much as we can.”

A provincial government news release said the Ministry of Education will work with the federal government to develop a three-year investment plan that aligns with Saskatchewan’s Early Years Plan and the province’s Education Sector Strategic Plan.

Saskatoon Catholic school board chair Diane Boyko said any funding for early years or child care is a positive.

“We know, that our students, when they’re school ready, that makes a big difference on their experience within the school systems and also on their successes.”

Nancy Dill, dean of the school of human services and community safety at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, which offers an Early Childhood Education certificate, said the new money will help address an existing need in the province.

“Any additional funding to support child care, from my perspective, is extremely welcome,” she said.

The March 22 provincial budget cut education funding overall by 6.7 per cent, forcing school divisions to look for cost savings, including the Regina public division’s plan to phase out its specialized preschool program. Morgan said he wouldn’t accept the division’s budget if it resulted in the loss of such programs, but provided no information on whether or not the Ministry would step up and supply funding.

In Saskatoon, the public school division plans to consolidate its Step Ahead preschool programs at Caroline Robins and Silverwood Heights School into one program at Silverwood as a way to save money, and has eliminated a pre-school support program.

Public board chair Ray Morrison said the future of these programs is still unclear, as the rejection of the Regina public division’s budget has created some confusion.

“We’re trying to do this to save money, but I would say unless we get some resolution on funding around these preschool programs in the next year, there’s a pretty good chance that a year from now, we could be winding them up,” he said in a recent interview. “On that note, we’ve been working with Ministry pretty vigorously, as have other school divisions with programs like this.” 

Morgan said federal money will not go toward any one program, but to improving supports for students overall. While some of the new supports funded through the federal government may have been offered previously through specialized preschool programs, they’re not intended to serve as a replacement, he said.