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Thursday, 11 May 2017 05:41

Swift Current rally raises education budget cut concerns

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Stacey Lolacher speaks at the rally against education budget cuts in downtown Swift Current, May 5. Stacey Lolacher speaks at the rally against education budget cuts in downtown Swift Current, May 5.

A rally against education budget cuts and changes to the Education Act took place in front of the office of Swift Current MLA and Premier Brad Wall, May 5.

A number of speakers voiced their concerns over the implications of these cuts and of Bill 63 to the future of education in the province.
Omar Murray, a school bus driver in Maple Creek and a member of the union CUPE, said the budget cuts will have a negative impact on education.
“I’ve talked to a lot of my members and they’re very concerned because these cutbacks, whether they want to say it or not, directly influence the children,” he mentioned. “Our children are the future. These are the people that are going to run this country. We want them as well educated as we possibly can. We want them to have a good, strong society but unfortunately with the cuts that all falls back.”
Chris Mulhall, a Chinook School Division employee and a member of the union SEIU-West, referred to the large, rural area that is served by the school division.
“We have special requirements that city schools don’t need in Saskatoon and Regina,” he said. “They’re not far-flung like Consul or Fox Valley, or Burstall or Wymark. ... It’s representative of what’s so important about small-town Saskatchewan — it’s all about community. We have to send a message that it’s not horrible that you made the mistake, but the way you fix that is admitting it.”
The provincial government introduced Bill No. 63, The Education Amendment Act, 2017, in the Saskatchewan legislature in early April. The bill was passed after receiving its third and final reading on May 4. Mulhall felt the law will have significant implications for school boards.
“What they’re doing here now is they stripped away the rights to fund and the rights to do the major decisions from our school board,” he said. “They’ve made our school boards the face and the buffer zone for all the insult and anger that’s going to come back over these cuts while they make the decisions. It's absolutely unfair to our elected trustees.”
The rally in Swift Current was organized to show support for rallies held by Students Mobilizing Against Cuts (SMAC) during the first week of May. Stacey Lolacher of Moose Jaw brought greetings from SMAC to the rally in Swift Current.
“I don’t understand how there is money for billion dollar corporations to get more tax cuts while our parents are paying more for food and clothes and the government is telling our education workers to chop a little more off every corner, to take some days off,” she said.
She mentioned the opposition to these budget cuts will continue and people will not stop just because the government restored the funding for libraries.
“We didn’t get a chance to vote on this budget, nobody did,” she said. “We didn’t know about it. So we aren’t going home until our cuts are reversed, until our children are looked after. That’s why we're here today.”
Swift Current resident Nancy Currie referred to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in her remarks to the rally.
“The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that affect them,” she said. “All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and lawmakers. I thought that was quite fitting.”

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Matthew Liebenberg