Education Investments Focus on Early Learning, Infrastructure
Recognizing that the foundations for personal achievement and success are established in childhood, Budget 2012: People and Prosperity – Responsible Investments for a Secure Future advances the quality of the province’s early childhood learning and K-12 education systems with an investment of $866.9 million, an increase of $18.2 million over last year.
“This year’s budget focuses on continued implementation of our early childhood learning initiative, as well as new and ongoing investments in K-12 infrastructure and programming,” said the Honourable Clyde Jackman, Minister of Education. “There has been phenomenal growth in educational investment over the past several years and, as a government, we are committed to managing our resources in a manner that ensures continued support for key initiatives.”
Early Childhood Learning
Budget 2012 includes almost $1.7 million for the second year of implementation of the province’s early childhood learning strategy, Learning from the Start, which is designed to enhance early learning opportunities for young children and their families. It is part of a three-year $4.8 million investment, announced last year, with an initial focus on the years from birth to age three.
“There is more brain development occurring between birth and age three than at any other time in our lives,” said Minister Jackman. “So when we talk about investment in early childhood learning, we must start at the beginning – at birth. The second year of investment in Learning From the Start includes additional funding for parent resources and more early literacy programming to ensure we are giving our children the best possible start in life, and preparing them for success when they enter school.”
K-12 Infrastructure Investments
The unprecedented investments the Provincial Government has made in K-12 infrastructure over the past eight years will continue, with Budget 2012 providing more than $115 million for new and ongoing infrastructure projects throughout the province.
“The recent population explosion, in regions just outside St. John’s for example, has created serious challenges in accommodating the growing number of students,” said Minister Jackman. “An influx of young families into these areas means there is more space required to accommodate students in many schools. While modular classrooms will address the short-term needs, we recognize that site selection and design work need to begin as soon as possible to address capacity issues in some areas.”
Budget 2012 provides $6.9 million in new funding for major infrastructure projects, including planning for potential new schools in Portugal Cove-St. Philips, Paradise, Conception Bay South and the Torbay-Flatrock-Pouch Cove-Bauline area. Funding will also be allocated to investigate the feasibility of a new school in Gander, while further support will be provided to allow for ongoing planning related to the reorganization of schools in Corner Brook.
Approximately $79 million has been allocated for ongoing major capital improvements, including:
An additional $29.3 million has been earmarked for priority repairs and maintenance to school facilities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, including such projects as the replacement of windows, roofing and siding, and for ongoing electrical and plumbing upgrades.
Since 2004, over $567 million has been allocated for K-12 infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador, a level of investment unparalleled in the province’s history.
Support for Teachers
Budget 2012 provides $537.8 million, more than 62 per cent of the entire K-12 budget, for teachers’ salaries, substitute teachers, student assistants, professional development, and various services for teachers.
“Our commitment to teachers and to resourcing the education system is clear,” said Minister Jackman. “Relative to student population, there are more teachers in our education system than ever before in our history. Ongoing initiatives such as the K-9 class size cap, and the new, needs-based teacher allocation model, have resulted in Newfoundland and Labrador recording the best student-teacher ratio of any province in Canada.”
Budget 2012 allocates about $70 million to retain these enhanced services for the benefit of all students. Meanwhile, there is also $9 million earmarked for professional development for teachers in Budget 2012, up from $4.6 million in 2004 – a 96 per cent increase.
Ongoing Support for Families
Budget 2012 will see the continuation of the enhanced free textbook policy, which was extended to Grades 9-12 in 2007 in recognition of the financial burden it placed on families. Almost $19 million has been invested in this initiative since 2007. Similarly, the Provincial Government will continue to provide school boards with funding to ensure the continued elimination of standard school fees, an initiative which has seen more than $37 million invested since its inception in 2006.
“Providing a quality education that is accessible to everyone is, and always will be, a priority for this government,” said Minister Jackman. “These investments, and more, speak to our commitment to meeting the needs of students and their families now, and far into the future.”
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Director of Communications
Department of Education
2012 04 24 2:30 p.m.