Minister, school board need to get on the same page

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Here we go again. That’s probably the best way to describe the verbal sparring that’s taking place between the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and Education Minister Ramona Jennex. It’s almost as if the board has a way of pressing the minister’s buttons.

Unfortunately, it’s our children and our education system that’s caught in the crossfire and is likely to pay the highest price when the dust settles in another game of back and forth.

Just as it did last year, the board has not tried to hide its budget woes from its stakeholders. Its members feel they are being open and honest when they say how a budget shortfall is going to impact the system. The board says $2.5 million is going to result in 37.5 fewer full-time equivalent jobs; the minister says the province is actually getting $1.3-million in funding even though it has 370 fewer students.

The board claims reductions are eroding a quality system; the minister says the board is misinforming the public.

This is not the first time the board is found itself in the crosshairs of the provincial government. It was only last year that Premier Darrell Dexter said the board was playing a political game with its numbers. Jennex responded by sending in someone from the provincial Treasury Board to help the board revise its budget.

More recently, the two sparred over the school closure and review process with Jennex asking it, and other boards, to hold off on school closures only to be ignored by the CCRSB.

Now, as the board prepares to finalize its 2013-14 budget, it appears as though parents, students and staff are going to see a repeat performance. Question is, just how far is the minister prepared to go to make her point and will it including telling board not to let the door hit its members on the way out?

Fact is our students need to be prepared so they can excel at the next level, whether its post-secondary education, on the workforce or in life in general. We shouldn’t put a price tag on education. What we don’t need is two sides picking at each other from both ends of Highway 102. The least we can expect is for the minister to understand that one of the best systems in terms of academic results is being economized, while the board needs to understand fewer students in the end is going to result in less money as long as funding is on a per pupil basis.

It’s time for both the board and the minister to stop the griping, sit down face to face and come up with real solutions on providing the best possible education at a realistic cost. Anything less would be a failure.

Organizations: Central Regional School Board, Treasury Board

Geographic location: Chignecto

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