Dean Ingram said the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NTLA) recognizes the province is in a challenging fiscal situation, but investing in education has to be a priority.
The NLTA president said any jurisdiction has financial challenges and it comes down to not so much of what it spends, but how it chooses to spend the money it does have.
Ingram made the comments after speaking at a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook at the Quality Inn on Thursday.
He said there has to be consideration on where to prioritize spending in order to address the long-term future of the province.
“If you want to look at the long-term, education has to be an area of focus of moving the province forward.”
During his speech Ingram spoke about classroom sizes and the complexities of today’s classrooms in terms of the wide spectrum of needs that exist — from mental health, to autism and learning challenges.
Adding it all together it doesn’t make for a very effective learning environment.
“The research confirms common sense, class size does matter,” said Ingram.
Smaller classes may be more costly, but they may have a better impact on student achievement.
He said the NLTA believes that the research evidence is conclusive: investment in smaller class sizes will improve not only educational outcomes, but also social outcomes.
“If you look at education, ideally every student should have their individual needs met, but in the dynamics that are there it’s very challenging to have that.”
Besides classroom size and composition issues, Ingram said areas not addressed in last year’s provincial budget that the union will continue to advocate for include an increase in the number of school counsellors and school psychologists, allocations for school administrators, resources for student support services and expansion of the education action plan along with feedback on how it’s working and not working.
When asked about the recent misspending revelations at the Newfoundland and Labrador School District, Ingram said budgets that were inappropriately utilized were in the areas of facilities at the district level.
He said the facilities budget is different from the program budget, but suggested that if things were tightened that some of the money allocated to facilities could be redirected to programs.
“Because obviously the programming budget is what impacts the students directly.”
Kindergarten — 20
Primary (Grades 1-3) — 25
Elementary (Grades 4-6) — 28
Junior high — 31
High school — no cap
Kindergarten — 22
Primary (Grades 1-3) — 27
Elementary (Grades 4-6) — 30
Junior high — 33
High school — no cap
Note: The classroom caps for French immersion can be four higher than the limit.