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CUPE pressure for public schools is paying off in Saskatchewan, where the government appears to be backing away from plans for P3 schools.

Earlier this year the Saskatchewan Party government – which is “open” to P3 proposals – said it was working on a P3 school policy for the province.

  • Update: Read local president Will Bauer’s editorial in the Nov. 21 Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

The Saskatoon Public School Board told the government it was “actively exploring” the idea of a P3 school for the city.

Yesterday, however, Education Minister Ken Krawetz sounded a note of caution about the schemes.

CUPE has been urging both the Saskatoon school board and the provincial government to learn from other province’s mistakes and keep the new school public.

There’s plenty of evidence about the problems with P3 schools from Nova Scotia, Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia – where the province’s short-lived experiment with a privatized school made headlines this week for its shoddy construction. The school, located in Abbotsford, is now back in public hands  – leaving taxpayers on the hook for the P3 fallout.

New Brunswick may also be having second thoughts about P3 schools. Krawetz told the media that during a recent tour of a privatized school, the province’s education minister was lukewarm about more privatized schools.

Quick local and provincial action was essential to stopping the P3 proposal in its tracks. Will Bauer, the president of the public school board local was outspoken in his opposition.  “When I hear the motivation to provide education is profit, I have concerns,” said Bauer, president of CUPE 8443. “Why would we allow private corporations to access the public purse? Education is not a commodity. It should not be for sale,” he said.

Bauer, along with CUPE Saskatchewan division president Tom Graham, and BC researcher (and Burnaby public school board chair) Kathy Corrigan, raised even more criticisms of the scheme at a Saskatoon news conference last week.

The opposition NDP asked question after question in the legislature, but the education minister dodged them all.

CUPE will keep a close eye on any study the Saskatchewan Party conducts. And the fight for public services isn’t over. While acknowledging P3s are likely not the right fit for schools, the education minister said the government is still considering P3s for other infrastructure, including bridges and highways.