Mr. Speaker, history will judge last years education referendum as the most
significant change in the Province of the last 50 years - a defining moment when we turned
the page on the past to shape our education system for the future.
Education reform is about providing our children with the best school system possible.
This means clean air, good schools, learning materials, and the right number of teachers.
Achieving these objectives, Mr. Speaker, means investing in education. And that is what
we propose to do.
Mr. Speaker, Government recognizes that some new school construction is necessary and
that many of our existing schools are in need of repair. These repairs were deferred for
years because of restraint. It is now time to make these needed repairs.
Air quality control problems will be addressed. That means clean air in every
classroom, in every school in this province.
We are, therefore, announcing a significant investment in our education system. Today,
we are making available $50 million toward school construction and upgrading over the next
I am announcing today the formation of a new entity, the Newfoundland and Labrador
Education Investment Corporation. Government, through the Corporation, will review capital
investment plans submitted by school boards, determine priorities, and develop a
multi-year plan for investment.
Mr. Speaker, in recent years, our capital investment in schools, because of fiscal
restraint, has been reduced to as low as $4 million annually. The $50 million investment I
am announcing today represents the largest example of Governments commitment to
reinvesting in education. However, we are investing in other areas as well.
Mr. Speaker, the number of teachers allocated in the Province has been determined by
the number of students.
The numbers decreased last year by 4,600, and will decrease another 4,000 this year.
Ordinarily, these declining enrollments would mean a reduction of 425 teaching units. As
class sizes shrink, however, it becomes more difficult to provide quality education to our
Determining the right number of teachers is a matter of art, not mathematics. We are,
therefore, limiting the reduction in teaching units in 1998-99. As we announced nine days
ago, we will "add back" about 200 of the 425 teachers that the existing formula
would have eliminated.
Special Needs Students
Mr. Speaker, we have reviewed The Report of the Review of Special Education. Dr.
Patricia Canning conducted a comprehensive examination of the special education needs of
our children. We are responding to that report with new investments in special education.
Mr. Speaker, we are announcing today an additional 70 teaching units to help those
children with special needs and disabilities. This represents an additional $3.3 million
annual investment in our children. Teachers will be added for children with learning
disabilities, emotional/behavioural disorders, traumatic brain injury, fetal alcohol
syndrome, and autism.
We will also provide $250,000 for educational materials suited to children with
learning disabilities, and a further $250,000 for early literacy programs.
The Departments of Education, Health, Justice and Human Resources and Employment will
work together to provide individual care for special needs children, and support for their
Mr. Speaker, good primary and secondary schooling is the necessary foundation for later
learning. Post-secondary education is becoming a prerequisite for later employment.
Many students need further support to complete their post-secondary education. The
Government of Canada recognized this need in their recent budget, announcing the Canada
Millennium Scholarship program for the year 2000. For the next two years, however, no
money is available.
Mr. Speaker, we have consulted with student leaders on the financial hardships facing
Today, I am happy to announce that the provincial government will provide $4 million
for awards to students based on need and academic achievement. More than 4,000 awards of
up to $1,000 each will be available over the next two years until the introduction of the
Canada Millennium Scholarships.
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Government has agreed to match private sector donations to the Memorial University
Opportunity Fund. This year, we honour that commitment with another $3 million. This is in
addition to the $6.3 million we committed to the Fund in last years budget.
College of the North Atlantic
The College of the North Atlantic has evolved over the years to keep pace with labour
market demands, offering courses geared to the different regions of the Province. To
ensure that it continues to provide a first-rate education to its students, the grant to
the College will be maintained at its current level. In fact, with increased
federal/provincial training purchases under the Labour Market Development Agreement, the
College will receive approximately $2 million more to meet education and training needs.
With these increases, Government is demonstrating its commitment to the publicly-funded
post-secondary education system in this Province.
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