How does Saskatchewan rate in funding K-12 education as compared to other provinces and territories in Canada? The fact is Saskatchewan has the worst rate!
Is this an important issue for you? Well if you like pay higher education property taxes than any other province it should be important for you! The provincial government is desperately trying to keep the school closures in rural Saskatchewan as an "equality in education" issue when in fact it is 100% a money issue! The Calvert Government is unfairly slashing rural division funding which is resulting in rural school boards to balance their budgets by closing schools and raising taxes!
I spent my weekend reading a provincial report, the Commission on Financing K – Grade 12 Education, December 2003. It reports what the rural people of the Province of Saskatchewan have been saying for years and years.
The report clearly indicates that Saskatchewan has the highest education property taxes in Canada, on a per capita basis and as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.
It also states that education property taxes are not as fair as other forms of taxation, particularly income and sales taxes.
In Saskatchewan, locally leveled property assessment tax revenue, funds 60% of the total K-12 education cost in the province. Two provinces are in a range of 21.9 to 32.1%; one province is in 15 to 20% range; two provinces under 10%; and seven provinces or territories at 0% of the Local Levied Property Tax. Saskatchewan is the clear loser! We have the highest rate! Almost double the rate of the next closest province.
If you look at Provincial funding for K-12 Education on a per capita basis, we are the worst in Canada. Saskatchewan average per capita is $587 and the Canadian average is $904. In Western Canada per capita education spending is much higher; B.C. $1077, Alberta $1219 and Manitoba is $839. We hold this number one position as the lowest funding on a per capita basis over a 20% margin from the next lowest province, Ontario at $745.
Financing Education in our province should be done in a manner that is fair and equitable to all students regardless of where they live.
In the next few weeks, school boards across our province, mainly the rural school divisions will be deciding if any schools on the “Review” will be come off of the division review or slated for closure. Final decisions will not be made until May.
Almost every School Division in the Province lost enrolment last year. Rural School Boards are between a rock and a hard place with an annual cut to the K-12 Operating Grant and enrolment loss to maintain all the schools in their respective divisions under the current funding process.
The Government is slashing K-12 Operating Grants for rural divisions with enrolment loss while at the same time increasing the K-12 Operating Grant for Regina and Saskatoon School Divisions with enrolment loss. Is this fair and equitable?
Our division, Prairie South School Division lost 386 students and had the K-12 Operating Grant from the Province cut $2.93 million dollars, or $7600 per student lost. Chinook and SE Cornerstone School Divisions average loss per student were much higher. These two other school divisions border Prairie South School Division on the west and east and cover the southern portion of the Province.
The 2006-07, K-12 Operating Grant increased provincially $18,529,006 from the previous year. Regina and Saskatoon School Divisions received every dollar of it plus more! Combined the four school divisions lost 1362 students but their operating grant increased $18,694,097. On average, $13,725 gain per student lost. Regina has an average $18,009 gain per student lost and Saskatoon has an average $10,770 gain per student lost. Is this fair and equitable?
Funding education on property taxes was fair back in 1931, or 1941, but not in 2007! Again looking in the Prairie South School Division, the tax payers pay 57% of the total cost for the entire school division. Now break it down between the schools in Moose Jaw and all the other schools in the rural and small urban municipalities and you see that the urban schools are funded 67% from Government funds and 33% Assessment Tax Revenue and the rural area schools are funded 16% from Government and 84% by Assessment Tax Revenue.
These are total division costs this year less the deficit. For every dollar raised by an increase in the mill rate in Prairie South School Division, 71 cents will come from the rural assessment and 29 cents from the urban assessment. The Prairie South School Division had its provincial K-12 Operating Grant slashed again this budget year by $2.93 million dollars. The loss of these funds actually came from the cost of operating the Moose Jaw schools within the School Division. In order to keep funding levels consistent in the city schools, the School Board may be forced to close five schools in the rural area and one in Moose Jaw and still raise several millions of dollars to eliminate their deficit. Savings in school closures will be around one third of the $5.7 million deficit so the rural area will fund 71% and urban will fund 29% of somewhere around $3.75 million. These are the facts! It all goes back to funding education from assessment on property. Is this fair and equitable?
In Prairie South School Division the costs for school based staffing, Plant operations and maintenance for the rural schools is $20.5 million with rural tax revenue of $26 million. In contrast the cost for the 13 schools in Moose Jaw is $29 million with tax revenue of $14.3 million and the other $15 million from the Saskatchewan K-12 Operating Grant, (50/50 split) The rural area would like to have this cost sharing ratio too.
In fact, almost all the rural school divisions in Saskatchewan are 0% Operating Grant funded schools for the costs to staff, operate and maintain their schools. Almost all the K-12 Operating Grant funds go into the urban areas within school divisions in the province.
If the K-12 Operating Grant from the Province was completely eliminated almost all the rural schools could continue, if they could use the tax revenue raised in their municipality, rural and small urban; and the city schools would be severely under funded by at least 50% based only on the costs to operate schools.
So who subsidises who here! One of the largest urban/rural myths floating around Saskatchewan is: “The cities subsidise the rural schools”, and it really is the opposite!
Rural rate payers want fair and equitable funding for their school similar to what the cities in Saskatchewan enjoy.
Why? Because of the current method of raising education taxes using land property assessment.
The provincial government will not listen to their own commissioned reports. They are unwilling to listen to the voices of SARM, SUMA, rural school divisions and rate payers. The government has solutions put forward to them from the Commission on Financing K-12 Education, December 2003, that if implemented would have the 40/60 funding ratio back to at a minimum 60/40 split and on the average, education taxes would have been reduced by 43% from 2003 levels across the entire province!
So why aren’t we there Mr. Premier Calvert?
How do we get the Government to change? Speak out! Get Organised! Lobby! Talk with your local School Community, Contact your school division board. Contact your MLA and contact the Premier!
If we do nothing to make the government change, do not expect the government to change. School closures will continue not just in the rural but in the cities as well. The Calvert Government clearly does not understand, or care, about the fiscal imbalances in K-12 education funding. The Commission on Financing Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education, December 2003, provided several different scenarios on how to shift funding to get back to a fair and equitable 60/40 balance of funding education.
In the next past weeks we have seen federal and provincial budgets come down. There was little if any consideration given to K-12 education funding. The Calvert government should be ashamed for having the lowest level of provincial funding for K-12 education in Canada!