P.E.I. school board set to push back against funding cuts

TC Media newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on May 28, 2014

 Kent Nicholson, trustee with the English Language School Board makes a point during the May meeting, flanked by fellow trustees Cindy McCardle, left, and June Sanderson.

©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong

The English Language School Board is gearing up to push back against government funding cuts to education.


"We have been challenged, no question about that," said Board Superintendent Cynthia Fleet in delivering an update on staffing to the board's May meeting in Stratford Tuesday. "We staff to the best of our ability."

It is to the point of making the appointed trustees rebellious, but on the nicest of terms.

"I think one of the things this board can do is to respectfully, and in a very methodical way, try to promote a different approach to funding education," said trustee Jason Doiron.

"One of the first things that we were told as board members was that we are the conduit between citizens and the system," he said. "I have to say that the citizens I have talked to – friends, colleagues, parents, teachers –many are concerned about funding.

"I am too," said Doiron. "I would like, at some point, to have some discussion about how this board can be a force to really convince those that make funding decisions that education funding needs a change."

The English Language School Board governs 57 schools serving over 19,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 on P.E.I.

Trustee Kent Nicholson took up the torch.

"There is only so much wiggle room in our allotment of teachers and I think that whatever wiggle room might have been there, we have lost over the last few years," said Nicholson.

"I think this trend can't continue on and result in good outcomes for our students," he said. "I echo the concerns expressed.

"I think we need to push back, in a polite and respectful way, but push back a little bit and say 'education should be one of our highest priorities in this province,' " said Nicholson.

Board chair Fred Osborne declined a suggestion from Nicholson to create a motion to that effect.

"I think we need to garner as much information as we can among all our trustees and formulate what our understanding is and present that to our superintendent," said Osborne.

The board asked for staff to create an outline report of current and past funding models.

"I have been in contact with the department of education and it is receptive to have a conversation around how we can explore what we call the allocation model," said Fleet.

"We have maximized what we have," she said. "The question is, what else do we need where, in order to support the system."

Nicholson pressed onward, saying he wants priority action on filling the vacant school psychologist positions.

Fleet said that one has recently been hired and discussions are underway with others. There is also discussions with the provincial government on student needs within overall psychological services for the province.