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Government may go with amalgamation despite outcry

Posted on February 14, 2017 by Maple Creek

Megan Roth
Twitter: @MeganMCNews

There was an “overwhelming” response to the amalgamation of school boards question posed by the Saskatchewan Government.

The vast majority of responses and letters sent to the government requested the school divisions remain unchanged and school board trustees remain elected by the public.

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association conducted a survey and discovered 93 per cent of people want to keep the status quo.

In a Feb. 2 press conference, Education Minister Don Morgan said the government could still move ahead with the proposed amalgamation despite the response from the public.

Roughly 3,000 submissions were received in response to amalgamation from the public, though Morgan said he “wouldn’t read anything into it.”

The decision on the amalgamation rests with the cabinet, who will decide if the school boards should amalgamate or change the borders of the divisions.

“It’s open to them [the cabinet] to do what they feel is appropriate, knowing everything they know about the budget and knowing what challenges the province is facing,” Morgan said.

Morgan has largely avoided saying the proposed amalgamation is all about the dollar signs, instead saying the review and possible change is not “just financial.”

The consultations from the public were called for from the government in response to the six-person panel that is reviewing the current structure of the school boards.

“Consultation, you want to hear what people say. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you accept it, but you understand that’s the direction people are wanting to give you, so cabinet will make that decision in time,” Morgan said.

He also added the government wouldn’t have asked for the public’s feedback if they didn’t want to hear it.

At the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) meeting from Feb. 5-8, Premier Brad Wall said “everything is on the table” and “deep cuts” are on their way to accommodate the government’s $1.2-billion deficit, which has grown from the $434-million deficit announced last June.

During the government’s bear pit panel at the SUMA conference Feb. 8, Minister Morgan tried to assure those gathered that there has been no decisions made on the potential school board amalgamation.

“There were no decisions made ahead of time,” he said. “We want to follow the process. We want to look and see what the people wanted to see.”

According to Morgan, the official report has not yet been received by cabinet, as the panel is still awaiting all the responses.

There is no current timeline from the government as to when the potential amalgamation will be announced. Many expect it to be announced in March when the budget is announced.

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