Saskatchewan education support workers from eight different school divisions gathered at the Saskatchewan Legislature this week for a Day of Action to demand better funding for education.
“Earlier this year, the government rolled out its “Back on Track” budget. It’s a disastrous budget and a blatant attack on public education,” said Rob Westfield, chair of CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “The budget does not come close to covering the basic operating costs school boards must budget for and it is the students who will pay the price once again.”
Karla Sastaunik, an education assistant at Good Spirit School Division, was one of the 50 members who were in attendance.
“While this government states it has improved and increased funding to school divisions – it’s all smoke and mirrors. My specific division received a .83% increase but the cost of fuel, the bargained wage increases, and the cost of inflation has risen exponentially. Something has to give, and it has,” said Sastaunik. “I have been doing this work for 35 years and over the years my schedule has been cut from having hours per week to spend with students in a specific class to sometimes only having minutes per week to try and accomplish the same goals,”
Many school divisions have already announced cuts, including Chinook School Division who has laid off 20 teachers and cut hours for all education assistants.
“The latest provincial budget comes up short again and now I’m faced with the reality of having my hours cut. My workday will be decreased by 30-minutes every day or 2.5 hours every week for a total of 10-hours a month. That equates to a loss of $232.21 per month. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but to a single mother that’s her car payment, it’s my grocery bill, it’s an 8.3% wage reduction,” said Tena Schneider, an educational assistant working in Fox Valley. “It’s a cut I will certainly feel, but the students will feel it even more. My workday is designed around the students I work with – is their school day also going to end 30-minutes earlier, are they somehow not going to need their EA for 30 minutes each day?”
The Education Workers’ Steering Committee will continue to advocate for adequate funding for the education sector.
“CUPE education support workers help ensure students get to school, we take care of the building, we run and support programs and we help ensure that quality education is available to every single student in Saskatchewan. We show up every day for the students of Saskatchewan, and we’re here today, calling on the Saskatchewan government to do the same,” concluded Westfield.
CUPE represents 7,000 education support workers in over 40 classifications that include education assistants, library assistants and technicians, custodians, tradespeople, school secretaries, bus drivers, social workers and computer technicians, along with many other classifications.