Record budget of $809 million for Department of Education (04/03/03)
April 3, 2003
FREDERICTON (CNB) - A record budget of $809 million for the Department of Education was announced today by Minister Dennis Furlong.
The 2003-2004 ordinary account budget of the Department of Education will reach $775 million, $19 million more than in the previous year. Furthermore, the department has a capital budget of $34 million, for a record high budget of $809 million in 2003-2004.
"This record investment will allow us to foster a culture of lifelong learning for citizens that aspires to excellence and achievement, and ensure graduates have the knowledge to be leaders in today's world and tomorrow's economy," Furlong said.
Since 1999, direct education funding for each student in kindergarten to Grade 12 has increased over 25 per cent from $4,829 in 1998-1999 to a projected $6,042 in 2003-2004.
The department's budget includes an initial investment of $2.5 million to begin the implementation of the Quality Learning Agenda. The first priority will be literacy at the K-2 level, and then an initiative will be developed to ensure that all students can read by Grade 3 at the latest.
The Quality Learning Agenda measures will be in addition to the steps already taken to improve our students' academic performance.
The minister also pointed out that an amount of $5.2 million, generated by the reduction of student population, has been reinvested in the public school system. "It might be assumed that a declining school population will mean a reduction in the education budget, but that is forgetting that we are facing important challenges," Furlong said. "That is why we are re-investing these savings in the education system."
In his address to the Legislative Assembly, the minister recognized the importance of those who work in our education system. He pointed to a $13 million increase in the wage bill for teachers and a $5 million increase for the General Labour and Trades group. Those increases are set out in the most recent collective agreements.
Still on the subject of public education spending, about 20 school buses will be added to the school bus fleet in certain francophone school districts. This measure will make it possible to provide a distinct transportation services for francophone students living in majority anglophone regions. "This was a safety issue that had to be addressed," Furlong said. "A total of $830,000 has been earmarked for this new measure."
As for post-secondary education spending, the budget reflects the first phase of the new three-year funding plan aimed at increasing the universities' base funding by 10 per cent. This first phase provides for an increase of 3.4 per cent in university funding in 2003-2004, or $6.1 million over last year's funding.
The budget also includes an extra $2.1 million to improve access to post-secondary education. That amount is part of the additional $6.1 million promised by the government for non-repayable bursaries in response to the recommendations of the Working Group on Accessibility to Post-Secondary Education. This is the third and final year of a three-year funding plan.
"The increases in university funding and student financial assistance will help to limit tuition fee hikes and enable our universities to improve their position in the highly competitive world of post-secondary education," the minister said.
The Department of Education budget also includes total capital spending of $34 million to upgrade New Brunswick schools. Of that amount, $25 million will be used for the Healthy Schools initiative which ensure a safe learning and working environment for students, teachers, other school employees, and volunteers. This is the fourth $25-million instalment for the Healthy Schools initiative launched in the fall of 1999. Thus, the government has kept its promise to invest $100 million in that initiative over a four-year period.
The budget includes investments in eight major projects already under way, as well as nine new projects.
Those projects are:
MEDIA CONTACT: Hugues Beaulieu, communications, Department of Education, 506-444-4714.