Just over 1/5 of the provincial budget announced Wednesday afternoon has money included for education. With $3.3 billion in total set aside, it is the most money ever earmarked for education and includes $2.2 billion for operating funding for the province’s 27 school divisions.  

The amount dedicated to education is 8.1 percent more than in 2023-24, but is only 21 percent of the overall budget, down from 26 percent a few years ago. While the amount is a smaller amount of the overall pie while still being more money, it doesn’t concern Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill. 

“At the end of the day, every year the revenue picture can look different,” Cockrill explained. “The revenue-expense picture can look different inside the provincial budget overall based on, the revenue side, taxation fluctuations or non-renewable resource revenue.”  

For Cockrill, the important part of the education budget is the K-12 operating funding, which received an 8.8 percent boost for the coming year. The operating funding will be distributed to the 27 school divisions based on a number of factors, including the enrolment of the divisions.  

“There’s also funding formulas related to the classroom supports funding as well as transportation dollars,” Cockrill added. “Within the 27 school divisions, they all look so different. Urban divisions versus rural divisions. Some divisions have significant transportation fleets, for others transportation is a smaller part of their budget.” 

The capital investment for schools also saw a significant increase, up by 46 percent from the previous budget to $216 million. The capital spending includes continued work on 14 projects such as the new school in Carlyle and renovations at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox. There is also funding to start the planning of nine new schools in the province and two new major renovations.  

The funding for Athol Murray College of Notre Dame was brought up to Cockrill, as it is technically a private institution. However, it does carry a special status within the province.  

“When you talk about Notre Dame, that is one of the historic high schools that we have in the province, and those historic high schools – the same category as Luther as Briercrest in Caronport – there are schools that have been around a long time, have a deep history in our province and are actually mostly publicly funded.” 

One portion of the education budget that does get overlooked at times is funding for libraries in the province. The money for libraries is something Cockrill said is important in many communities. He said in several places, they are more than just a place to go get books or to use a computer. They are also community hubs.  

“With the regional library system that we have in this province, it’s important that we continue to support that,” Cockrill stated. There is just under $12 million in the budget for the province’s libraries, with $1.1 million for literacy organizations, with the money going to not just children’s programming but for adults as well.  

Cockrill was also asked about the current ongoing labour dispute between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government. The STF has offered to go to binding arbitration over whether or not class size and complexity should be included in a final agreement, something the government has declined to do.  

The arbitration decision has been questioned by many on both sides of the debate, with those who support the government’s position stating the arbitrator would say the issues shouldn’t be in the agreement, while supporters of the STF have said the government doesn’t want to go to arbitration because they aren’t confident in their data going in front of a neutral third party.  

“We don’t believe that issues around class size and complexity belong at the provincial collective bargaining table when it comes to the agreement that we’re working on with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation,” Cockrill answered. “If the issue doesn’t belong at the bargaining table, then taking it to binding arbitration doesn’t make any sense at all.”  

Cockrill added that if the issues went to binding arbitration, it would take away the ability for local school divisions, such as South East Cornerstone Public School Division and Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division, to make decisions that are best for their specific school communities.