03/07/2012 08:55 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia premier defends education cuts as necessary due to enrolment decline

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says it's "flat wrong" to say his government is cutting education, despite a 1.3 per cent overall funding cut to school boards this fiscal year.

Dexter defended the planned $13.4 million education funding cut before a business audience Wednesday in Halifax, saying it is necessary given the province's continual decline in enrolment.

After his speech to the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce, Dexter said the ratio of funding per student has actually increased under his government, adding that the 1.3 per cent cut is a recognition that the system must adapt to declining enrolment.

"It's disingenuous to try to pretend that demand can decline and decline and decline and you don't do anything about addressing it," Dexter said.

"It's simply the fact that the money that we're putting into delivering education to each student is increasing."

Enrolment across the province from Primary to Grade 12 is expected to drop this year by more than 2,200 students, or 1.7 per cent, the government says.

Dexter said there are currently 100 more teachers than needed because of the decline and the government has to ensure resources flow into the classroom.

"There still comes a point where the number of people you have delivering the program has to correspond with the demand that you have," he said.

School boards have said this year's cut will mean teacher layoffs at a time they're being asked to expand some programs under a new education plan aimed at strengthening classroom instruction in areas such as mathematics and skilled trades training.

It follows a $17.6 million reduction in funding last year.