Sask. education system underfunded and stagnant: survey

Sask.  education system underfunded and stagnant: survey

One-third of those surveyed said they don’t find Premier Scott Moe or Education Minister Dustin Duncan to be “trustworthy” sources about public education.

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A recent survey by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation shows that residents feel the state of public education in the province is not improving, and government officials are not likely to be trusted on the topic.

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The survey data, obtained by the Leader-Post from a source within the STF, was collected from a poll conducted between Jan. 12-23, designed by Viewpoints Research and the STF.

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A total of 805 individuals from across the province were surveyed, either over the phone or online. Respondents were randomly selected, and the results were weighted by region, gender and age.

The margin of error for a random sample of this size is approximately 3.5 per cent, according to the methodology details provided by STF.

Over a third of respondents, or 37 per cent, felt that in the past five years, education has gotten worse in Saskatchewan, while nearly half said that it has remained the same. Just three per cent indicated they thought education had improved.

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Two-thirds of those surveyed think there is a shortage of education staff, including teachers, and another two-thirds think the provincial government should increase spending on spending on public education.

Comparatively, 26 per cent said spending should be maintained at the current level and one per cent said spending should be cut.

When asked if government funding provided to private schools is a “good use of tax dollars,” 66 per cent of respondents disagreed.

In a report on per-student spending in Canada from the Fraser Institute, published in October, Saskatchewan was recently identified as a province with declining education spending, even when it adjusted for inflation.

Saskatchewan recorded the second largest increase in student enrollment between 2012-13 and 2019-20 at 9.6 per cent, topped only by Alberta.

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Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario were the only provinces not to see an increase in per-student spending over the same period.

Saskatchewan fell from a position as the highest spender among the nine provinces in 2016, to the sixth highest in 2020. Per-student spending was just over $14,000 in 2019-20, compared to $15,314 in 2015-26.

Several participants in the STF survey also indicated they did not feel that Premier Scott Moe or Education Minister Dustin Duncan were “trustworthy sources of public education information.”

Just eight per cent said they felt the premier was a “very trustworthy source,” with four per cent responding to the same for Duncan.

Comparatively, 35 and 30 per cent of those surveyed felt Moe and Duncan, respectively, were not trustworthy.

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Twenty per cent of respondents were “elementary” about the education minister. One-third answered with the neutral response, in-between “very trustworthy” and “not trustworthy at all” for both government officials.

Rather, respondents were most likely to feel local teachers were the most reliable sources on education, with 63 per cent describing teachers as trustworthy.

Approximately one-third of the felt school board representatives and the STF were also trustworthy sources.

News media is less likely to be considered a trustworthy source, with about half of respondents indicating they felt the media was untrustworthy and 18 per cent responding with the opposite.

The survey results echo concerns that have been expressed by the education sector through the past year, including calls from school divisions for action on chronic underfunding that is pressing school divisions.

The STF has also been vocal about the realities of underfunding in Saskatchewan classrooms, describing them as in “triage” due to a tightness of staff and resources.

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