Rouble challenges school councils’ numbers

Assertions there’s a gap in Yukon education funding is misleading, says Patrick Rouble. “The government welcomes criticism, but when…

Assertions there’s a gap in Yukon education funding is misleading, says Patrick Rouble.

“The government welcomes criticism, but when we’re criticized for not doing something that we’re already doing we need to set the record straight,” said Rouble, the Education minister.

The statement comes after Whitehorse Elementary School council chair Keith Halliday challenged the government to correct a $14.8-million gap in public school funding.

He also called on the government to increase education spending at a pace consistent with other departments.

Education spending as a percentage of the overall budget is less than it was in 2004, according to Halliday, who used government data to make his case.

The budget numbers show a shift in priorities away from education, said Halliday.

The council is misinforming the public, Rouble told a news conference on Friday, echoing public statements by Premier Dennis Fentie on Thursday.

The budget has increased $30 million from 2002 spending, said Rouble.

Full-day kindergarten was introduced, literacy programs started, the construction of Carmacks schools and other capital increases.

But Rouble refused to say whether he agreed with the council’s numbers that show education spending is smaller as part of the overall budget than it was in 2004.

Education funding has increased over the years, but he wouldn’t comment on current spending as it relates to the overall budget.

It’s “strong,” he said.

“The priority of this government is very much on education…our spending reflects that,” said Rouble.

Spending can always be increased, he added.

“That’s my role in cabinet, to bang on the table and thump loudly and get my colleagues to recognize the importance of education,” he said.

Government spending has increased 9.4 per cent per year since 2004, while spending on education increased 3.6 per cent.

Inflation in Whitehorse in 2007 was four per cent.

If the government had kept education spending at 2004 levels, there would be about $14.8 million more in funding, said Halliday.

The Yukon has high student absenteeism and a low graduation rate — not to mention success rates among First Nation students — and should be a top priority for the government, said the council.

The spending figures are drawn from Finance budget documents.

Nominal increases have been made to education since 2004, but just enough to keep up with inflation, and spending has fallen behind the rate of increase of other departments, said school council members.

The government has answered a question no one asked, said Whitehorse Elementary School councillor Erik Blake.

Funding has not been cut — it has increased — but spending is down as a percentage of overall government spending, he said.

“Public school funding has really suffered in terms of allocation of resources,” said Blake.

“It’s clear there’s a problem. Funding is barely keeping pace with inflation. Education has been deprioritized.”

Money for economic development and MLA pay raises is positive for the territory, but don’t fund those priorities at the expense of education, said Blake.

Without education, who will staff the all the mines the territory hopes to open? he added, noting how technology is increasing the need for education.

“Sure, school kids don’t vote, but 20 years down the road, the education you gave them is the legacy we have,” said Blake.

On average, there are nine educators per 100 students in Whitehorse schools.

Next year, the projection is 6.5 per 100 at Whitehorse Elementary.

Several schools are busting at the seams with students, but staffing remains a problem, said Blake.

“We’re understaffed and we go to the (Education) department and the answer when we ask for more staff is they don’t have the budget for it,” he said.

Seven other schools expressed support for the original letter sent to Rouble, including Hidden Valley, FH Collins, Grey Mountain Primary, Porter Creek High school, St. Elias Community School, Takhini Elementary, Teslin school council.

In Whitehorse, there are 14 schools and another 14 rural schools are found outside the city.

As of January, there were 5,056 students enrolled in Yukon schools.

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

Most Read