Human Resources, Labour and Employment
September 5, 2007
Back to School More Affordable for Families
The financial burden associated with the beginning of the school year will be alleviated again with a $12.8 million investment to provide free textbooks for Grades 9 to Level III. Students in the K-12 public school system in Newfoundland and Labrador will now receive books for the prescribed curriculum free of charge. This is part of the Provincial Government's $1 billion investment in education in Budget 2007.
"This year, rather than being handed a list of books that must be purchased, students will be provided with all books for the prescribed curriculum," said the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education. "Not only will this result in a substantial reduction in the costs families incur as they prepare for the new school year, it ensures that our students have equal access to resources needed for school, regardless of their family's income. This is a cornerstone of our public education system."
The funding announced in Budget 2007 for high school textbooks builds on last year's $6.3 million investment to eliminate school fees. Both are important aspects of the Poverty Reduction Strategy developed by the Williams Government. In June 2006, the Provincial Government and the community embarked on a journey to transform Newfoundland and Labrador from the province with the most poverty to one with the least poverty. The commitment to the Poverty Reduction Strategy includes $91 million in initiatives to prevent, reduce, and alleviate poverty. It contains measures to address affordable housing, access to income, employment, education and training, dental care, and childcare for families, women, seniors and youth, and persons with disabilities.
"The best predictor of whether someone will live in poverty is his or her level of formal education," said the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment. "Access to free textbooks for students is an important preventive measure that supports the Poverty Reduction Strategy goal of a better-educated population through a more responsive K-12 school system."
Minister Burke said the education budget for K-12 has increased by 14.4 per cent overall and 29.6 per cent per student since 2003. At the same time, enrolment in K-12 has declined by 11.7 per cent.
"Our investments in education will contribute to a safe and successful school year. We are making advancements toward building a K-12 system that is on par with, or surpasses, any in the country," said Minister Burke.
Even though enrolment has been in a steady decline, teaching positions have been maintained, with new positions added this year. Class sizes in Grades K to 2 have been reduced to 25 or less. The same reduction will be made this year in Grade 3.
The province has been recognized by other jurisdictions for physical education and healthy living initiatives. New physical education equipment will be provided at the primary level this year, completing the three-year, $3.2 million equipment purchase program for the K-12 system. Budget 2007 has allocated $800,000 for the Healthy School/Healthy Living initiative to purchase cafeteria equipment for the implementation of the school food guidelines.
Minister Burke noted that the province is investing unprecedented funding to meet the challenges associated with school infrastructure.
"Budget 2007 has allocated $49 million for repairs, maintenance and new school construction, an increase of $12.3 million over last year," said Minister Burke. "We have increased school board operating grants by 67 per cent to ensure boards have the means to keep schools safe, clean and well-maintained on an on-going basis."
On top of this investment, there are 200 projects completed or underway at a cost of $25 million, $2.4 million for fire and life safety projects and $2.6 million for over 80 air quality projects.
In addition, high school science laboratories are being updated and provided with state-of-the-art equipment with an infusion of $3.85 million over the past two years. The Futures in Skilled Trades and Technology program is being expanded to 37 schools in the upcoming school year.
Other investments in the K-12 system include:
"Investments are being made in our school infrastructure and programs as well as to reduce the cost of school for families across the province," said Minister Burke. "They are all important initiatives that will strengthen our education system and provide the best possible learning experience for our students to prepare them for opportunities we know will exist in the coming years. I wish all students, teachers, school staff and parents an enjoyable and successful school year."
2007 09 05 12:25 p.m.
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