Independent fund-raising?
Sharpe-Staples urges bingos, other fund-raisers

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Apr 30/99) - When parent Gerri Sharpe-Staples realized little new funding was earmarked in the new budget for education, she first got angry.

Then, after some thought, she realized parents could make a difference if they bind together to start fund-raising on their own, through bingos and other initiatives.

"It calls for more funding all through the Minister's Forum report," Sharpe-Staples says. "They couldn't say it in any more plain English."

The report notes a widespread perception that recent funding levels have had a severe detrimental impact on the education system.

Specific effects have been increased class sizes, a decrease in support services for inclusive schooling and the elimination of optional courses that were once part of the school program, according to the report.

The system of stressed resources were compounded further, when new programs such as additional early childhood development programs, the introduction of new curricula and community high school extensions were implemented with either existing funds or with very little new investment.

In the legislature April 13, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment Michael Miltenberger, said he hopes to help educators do more with less.

"I intend to work with forum members, district education authorities and district education councils to determine how to best move forward immediately on some of the non-monetary recommendations that came out of the ministerial forum on education."

The April 19 budget speech allotted about $80 million for schools, including a new $1.2-million allocation to prompt class size to be as close to 18 students to one teacher as possible.

A further $1 million is slated for a Working Together program, which provides employers with a wage subsidy to hire Northern students.

Another $1 million is also set for the Investing in People program which provides adult basic education and basic skills and training.

Sharpe-Staples fears that if more funds are not set aside for those with special needs, students will be integrated into regular classes and fall behind never to catch up.

Earlier this week Miltenberger tabled another report on education, Towards Excellence: A report on education in the NWT.

"Reliable information is critical to good decision making and to public accountability for dollars spent," Miltenberger said.