Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 16, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Nunavut school’s budget will be reinstated for next year

But education minister warns low attendance could mean future budget cuts

DAVID MURPHY
Education Minister Paul Quassa said Paatsaali high school in Sanikiluaq will retain its 2013-14 budget for the 2014-15 year after the school originally saw a drastic 40 per cent decrease in funding. (FILE PHOTO)
Education Minister Paul Quassa said Paatsaali high school in Sanikiluaq will retain its 2013-14 budget for the 2014-15 year after the school originally saw a drastic 40 per cent decrease in funding. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut’s Education Minister Paul Quassa is making amends for a drastic 40 per cent cut in funding for Sanikiluaq’s Paatsaali School by reinstating the full budget.

But there’s no guarantee that money will continue into the future.

Quassa said there was a “communication issue” between his department and the Sanikiluaq district education authority and as a result, the school will retain its full budget from 2013-14.

“Apparently in the Sanikiluaq case, the local DEA were not informed of the decrease in numbers of their students,” Quassa told Nunatsiaq News.

Budgets are based on enrollment, Quassa said, and since school attendance was down in Sanikiluaq, the Paatsaali School budget got cut.

The problem was, DEA members were not told in advance and were caught off guard when their budget came up $72,000 short.

That money will be given back for the 2014-15 year, the minister said. But if attendance numbers remain low, the school’s budget will eventually reflect that, he added.

Sanikiluaq’s elected representative, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt, raised the issue June 12 in the Nunavut legislature, saying the school’s budget had been slashed without warning for the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

Quassa assured Nunavummiut that all territorial high schools who were told they would suffer budget cuts for the upcoming school year will also retain their previous 2013-14 budget — but he added he is unaware of any situations similar to Paatsaali.

Rumbolt told Nunatsiaq News that he suspected the culprit in this case was a new “student information system,” called Maplewood a computer system that tracks and collates attendance records into one database for all Nunavut’s 43 schools.

He was right.

Quassa said the system detected a “drastic number of students that had decreased attending” at Paatsaali School.

Budgets are calculated based on attendance records in the month of September, when school attendance is usually at its peak.

This past school year was the first year Nunavut implemented the Maplewood attendance system. Before that, all schools used a pencil and paper method of tracking attendance, a system Quassa called “kind of outdated.”

“With the new student information system, it’s a more rigorous recording of live attendance,” Quassa said.

“Rigorous recording” is code word for future budget cuts for Nunavut schools if attendance gets low, Quassa warned.

“Most of the schools are retaining the 2013-2014 level. This time. But certainly we, you know, following our new system, we will be cutting funding in the future because of the system that we now use,” Quassa said.

“I’m not saying that will [happen], it’s a matter of our students attending our schools.”

Quassa also pointed out that schools with increasing attendance will see their budgets grow.

“If schools are experiencing an increase in enrollment, they will receive the appropriate funding too. So we’re not just looking at decrease in funding.”

That’s why Quassa is stressing school attendance for the upcoming year.

“We will be working very closely with the parents to ensure that their students are going to school,” Quassa said.

The minister reiterated the GN’s new education-first mandate.

“We have to remember this government’s priority is education. And we will do our utmost that we ensure our youth population is getting the education they need.”

The Maplewood attendance system has been implemented by school boards across Canada in jurisdictions such as Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.

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