Saskatchewan has a world-class public education system, but the Sask. Party government’s undermining and underfunding of both teachers and schools has limited the effectiveness of school boards, damaged the morale of educators, and is making it increasingly difficult for Saskatchewan children to get the quality education they deserve. Providing top quality education from the early years to post-secondary is an essential investment in our long-term success.
Real progress in ensuring top quality education in every classroom across the province requires action in four areas: early childhood education, supports for students, equitable measures for equal opportunity, and support for teachers and schools.
1. Off to the Best Start: Early Childhood Education for Lifelong Success
The first thousand days of a child’s life have enormous impact on their long-term wellbeing. When we invest in early childhood education and care, we create a strong foundation for future development, health, and wellbeing. Studies show that every dollar invested in early childhood development saves between $4 and $9 in later costs through increased earning potential and reduced need for health, justice and social service spending. The financial and social return on investment of supporting families to give every child a good start is an opportunity without parallel.
- Establish a Ministry of the Child that unites the public sector in service of families and children with the goal of making Saskatchewan the best place in the world to be a child;
- Develop and implement a comprehensive early years action plan to achieve the best outcomes for children;
- Develop a Made-in-Saskatchewan affordable early childhood education program;
- Support early childhood education by ensuring that all publicly funded childcare providers integrate age-appropriate content for children 2 years of age and up;
- Ensure that early childhood educators have access to the training they need to not just care for and supervise, but also educate young children, and that they are paid at a rate that reflects the importance and difficulty of their work;
- Redesign the Child Care Subsidy to ensure it covers costs and offers parents more opportunities to choose the best early childhood educator for their child;
- Expand the number of licensed childcare spaces and support non-licensed providers with training in early child development, education and first aid;
- Help keep rural schools open by incorporating early childhood education and other community services in existing facilities;
- Work with the federal government and First Nations to make sure that early years supports are available and fully funded on-reserve.
2. Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Leaders
The same things that determine health outcomes determine educational success. Family income, housing, food security and other social factors play a big role in how well people do at school, and the whole-of-government approach to child wellbeing that I advocate will help us identify the best ways to support children’s development. Schools, teachers and education personnel play a significant role in meeting the unique needs of each child and working to achieve the best outcomes.
- Expand on the strengths of the community schools model by introducing more services in the places where families gather, including mental health services, clinical services, social services, early learning, and elder care, as determined by the needs of the local community;
- Introduce curriculum enhancements such as citizenship education to ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop essential critical thinking skills;
- Identify the right mix of teachers and educational assistants to support today’s integrated classrooms, including children with special needs or students learning English or French as an additional language;
- Ensure that school boards have the resources they need to provide in-house before- and after-school services for school-age children;
- Invest in school libraries so that students have improved access to resources, employment programs, and connections to the provincial public library network;
- Enhance assessment and evaluation capacity and shift emphasis from standardized testing to individualized, formative assessment;
- Ensure K-12 curriculum includes the development of cultural competency by including instruction on Treaty peoples; Indigenous Peoples’ languages, customs and ways of knowing; and the legacy of Residential Schools — and ensure that teachers are supported with the necessary resources to deliver this content;
- Enhance literacy programs, adult basic education, lifelong learning, and skills training, and support high school students’ transition to post-secondary education and training;
- Promote literacy training, including technological literacy, social literacy (communications, relationships, conflict mitigation), financial literacy, and safety and workplace rights.
3. Equitable supports for equal opportunity
The findings from education research around the world are clear: the more equitable the education system, the better the results for everyone. The key to long-term success lies in making the most of our high-quality public education system to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to reach their full potential.
- Roll out a nutritious school lunch program in Saskatchewan schools so that no child goes to school too hungry to learn;
- Help young adults and teen parents return to school by providing early childhood education and mental health and health-related services;
- Develop a comprehensive strategy to assist with the integration and success of students for whom English or French is an additional language;
- Expand the preservation and instruction of Indigenous languages and culture throughout the province;
- Partner with First Nations and invest in education on-reserve to support students in achieving the same graduation rates as young people off-reserve;
- Eliminate the Aboriginal education funding gap in Saskatchewan, recognizing that chronically underfunded education for the fastest growing segment of the population in the province is unjust and unwise;
- Involve small rural communities facing school closures in finding solutions, including the integration of child care and other family services, to keep schools open and allow students (particularly K-to-6 students) to study closer to home with less time on the bus;
- Support transitions for youth who are entering or leaving foster care and custody to finish high school and access post-secondary education and employment opportunities.
4. Being good partners to educators and communities
Education is an investment. How we approach the funding and governance of our education system, and how we support educators, are a reflection of our values and our commitment to building a better future for the people of Saskatchewan.
- Develop a funding model for all levels of education that is stable and sufficient to achieve the best outcomes for children and youth;
- Return autonomy to local communities by repealing Bill 63 and by returning the capacity of school boards to set their own mill rates in order to meet locally identified needs;
- Work with the College of Education, the teaching profession and the Teacher Education Programs (SUNTEP, ITEP) to ensure we have a representative, well-prepared instructional community that can respond to changing needs in our classrooms;
- Reinstate NORTEP and expand the TEP model to provide undergraduate training for teachers in more rural and remote communities;
- Involve teachers in curriculum design, and ensure that what we teach is fostering development in multiple areas, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), the humanities and the arts, and physical education;
- Ensure that technological infrastructure in schools is able to meet today’s needs, including working with SaskTel to provide high speed internet in every school
- Respect teachers, their professional organization, and collective agreements, including local agreements;
- Provide opportunities for professional development, incorporating cultural safety training throughout the system;
- Support good governance and leadership, enabling boards to do their work in service of students and to support research-informed, evidence-based practice;
- Work collaboratively to develop a process that authentically engages school boards, teachers, students and communities, including First Nations and Métis communities, to shape education policy together.
By working together towards the shared goal of achieving child wellbeing, we can build on the strengths of our education system to make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada to be a kid.
If you support Ryan's vision for education for long-term success, please ensure you have a current NDP membership so that you can vote.