TRURO - The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board could be looking at some serious cuts if the province doesn't agree to increase funding for public education by at least 3.6 per cent later this spring.
A group of educational leaders from across the province has launched a public campaign aimed at pressuring the provincial government to remember education when it sets its budget for 2010-11.
"The last few years we've cut so much that there's no place left to cut. If we don't get that money, there'll be more teachers going out the door that what we will already have to cut because of declining enrolment," board superintendent Noel Hurley said Friday.
"If we cut much more we're in danger of falling behind in student learning."
The Education Partners Group, comprised of members of the teachers union, home and school and school boards associations, and school administrators, said not increasing funding would result in the loss of 800 teaching jobs across the province, larger class sizes, fewer supplies, school closures and program cuts.
It equates the losses to cutting Grade 2 out of the school system. Hence, they have named their campaign Save Grade 2 (www.SaveGrade2.com).
While consultants Deloitte and Touche have suggested a five per cent increase is needed, Hurley said the 3.6 per cent being asked for by educators would only maintain the status quo. For Chignecto-Central, where enrolment is continuing to drop, that would still mean teacher layoffs.
"If we lose 500 students, that would mean a loss of about 20 teachers," Hurley said. "If we got the money we're looking for, we would still be losing teachers. The status quo just means keeping the things we've got, less the teachers we would lose."
For the most part, Nova Scotia has a strong education system. Canada sits in second in the world and Nova Scotia is eighth in the country and 14th in the world, according to a Program of International Student Assessment study.
"We're doing things well with great teachers," he said. "Around here we've done so much with so little for so long we're qualified now to do almost anything with nothing."
Hurley, who is also president of the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators, said the group is not pushing the province for anything above the 3.6 per cent because it, too, knows the present fiscal situation.
However, he added, as much as the province wants to avoid deficit financing, it's a different case when it comes to educating Nova Scotia's children.
"I can see not deficit financing for my health expenditures because I'm not going to be around to pay it off, but if we do deficit financing for education the ones who will pay off that deficit are benefitting from it because they'll be more educated," said Hurley. "In many countries, education is seen as a way out of the economic malaise and in the long term it's a way to grow our economy."
He suggested a one per cent increase in the HST earmarked for education could make a huge difference in supporting public education.