REGINA: The union that represents 4,600 school support workers in Saskatchewan is pleased that the Commission on Financing K-12 Education is recommending the province boost its share of education funding from 42 to 80 percent of total costs in its report unveiled today.
“We believe the provincial government should be the primary funder of K-12 education since it is a provincial responsibility and a public program that must be guaranteed to all citizens. So we’re very pleased that the commission is urging that the province pick up 70 percent of the costs through general revenues and an additional 10 percent of the costs with a new provincial education mill rate on commercial property,” said Tom Graham, president of the Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
“Shifting the burden of funding education away from property taxes will reduce inequities among students in different school divisions, lower our reliance on a regressive form of taxation and lessen the burden on farmers and rural property taxpayers,” said Graham.
CUPE Saskatchewan was also pleased the commission strongly supported the view that high quality public education is a social good. “A public education system ensures that all people in society, regardless of their background or income, have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop to their full potential, which also benefits our economy,” Graham said.
However, Graham expressed disappointment with the commission’s recommendation that the province finance most of their additional contribution to K-12 education with an increase and expansion of the provincial sales tax.
“It’s unfortunate that the commission has decided to recommend replacing one form of regressive taxation, property taxes, with an equally regressive tax,” he said. “We’re also concerned that the commission is recommending as much as $100 million of the additional provincial funding could come as a result of “changes in expenditure priorities” which could potentially mean cuts to other valuable public services. It would be much fairer to finance the entire additional provincial contribution through our personal income tax system, which is based on ability to pay. The polling conducted by the commission showed significant support for this option.”
Graham pointed out that the implementation of the Vicq report resulted in a loss of $240 million in income tax revenue annually, funds that could have financed an increased provincial commitment to K-12 education.
“While there are many positive recommendations in the commission’s report, it’s important to note that it does not call for an increase in total education spending,” he said. “There will be inflationary pressures to consider with the long implementation process set out by the commission. Recent funding for capital projects and infrastructure repair has not met the needs of our aging facilities.
There is a real need for the provincial government to boost K-12 spending to ensure that our children receive the best education possible in safe, clean learning environments. The best way to finance this investment is through progressive taxes.”
CUPE represents the majority of support staff workers in the school board sector, including caretakers, trades and maintenance workers, secretaries, library aides and technicians, bus drivers and teaching assistants.
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