POLITICS

Nova Scotia education minister says quality schools available despite cuts

06/14/2012 01:45 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's education minister says she is confident students at the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board will continue to get a quality education after it voted this week to cut the equivalent of 127 jobs.

Ramona Jennex said Thursday the amount of money the board is spending reflects its enrolment, which has dropped by 1,700 students over the past four years.

"It's up to the board to make sure they're staffing the schools appropriately to meet the needs of our students," she said.

"We have excellent educators, our teachers are excellent and I know that they're going to be receiving a quality education."

Earlier this year, the province stepped in to prevent the board from cutting its 41 librarians to cope with a $6.5-million budget shortfall.

The board says it is going ahead with a partial elimination of library services as part of the cuts it is making after the province sliced 1.7 per cent from its funding for 2012-13.

The board said the cuts will be felt in schools.

"Our board finds itself in an untenable position," chairwoman Trudy Thompson said in a statement.

"Once again, the budget cut imposed by the province has forced us to in turn make cuts that our system cannot afford, that we do not want to make. This year, the cuts run much deeper and further, affecting the entire school board."

The board has more than 3,000 staff members.

Jennex said library services at the board, which operates schools for about 22,000 students across central Nova Scotia, is in line with other boards.

The government has reduced overall funding to the province's eight school boards by 1.3 per cent this year. The $13.4-million cut is on the heels of a $17.6-million reduction in funding last year.

Across the province, Jennex said the amount of money the province is spending on education reflects declining enrolment.

"We're in a changing society and changing demographics, so we have to be creative in how we are delivering some of our services, especially in our rural areas," she said.

Although class sizes won't be known until the fall, Jennex said they have been falling over the past decade and last year stood at 21 or 22 students, on average, across the province.