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Funding change worries school boards

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yellowknife school boards are concerned about a recent government decision to reallocate nearly $1 million to early childhood development from inclusive schooling, which supports students with special needs.

"We believe this was not the right decision," said Duff Spence, chair of Yk1's finance committee. "The funding should not have come from inclusive schooling ... If it's a priority, find new money for it."

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) made the internal reallocation after MLAs emphasized the need for more action in the area of early childhood development during the recent sitting of the legislative assembly.

Gloria Iatridis, acting deputy minister of ECE, said she doesn't expect the shift in funds to impact schools greatly given that $27 million is put towards inclusive schooling programming each year.

"It was beneficial to take (the money) from inclusive schooling to prepare kids to enter school," said Iatridis. "Investing in children at an early age will reduce the amount of supports required in the school system later on."

The government will use the funds to enhance current early childhood development initiatives, including children's health programs and supports for daycares.

It will also be piloting two child and family resource centres in the fall.

The locations of the centres haven't yet been determined.

Claudia Parker, Yellowknife Catholic Schools superintendent, said she supports investing in early childhood development.

But she's concerned about how the shift in funds will affect students since it means the board will have $85,000 less in its budget.

"This year we are able to make those cuts and not have it affect school programming. But if we had to make cuts again next year, we can't guarantee that," Parker said. "You can only tighten your budget so much and then after it gets into affecting programming."

To reduce spending, trustees decreased funds to educational psychologists, psychiatric assessments and professional development trips, among other things.

It also cancelled its school review for the year and opted to work on recommendations from last year's math review instead.

The reallocation will mean $92,000 less in Yk1's inclusive schooling budget. The cut comes at a time when Yk1 schools are expecting the number of students who need access to this program to increase, said Spence.

"But because we are a well-managed district and we have a surplus for this year, certainly we can afford the hit," he said, adding that he is worried about the future. "(The cut) may be minor now but over the course of three to five years, what is it going to look like?"

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