The 2015 provincial budget has passed, and I am very proud of the support contained there for Education, including our students and teachers. It formed a significant part of the overall budget. As the Minister of Education, it is my mandate and responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of kids. In preparing my budget, which is the second largest within the provincial budget, I identified areas within our public schools that needed to change and/or receive more attention.
In particular, there will be a greater focus on math and literacy, beginning in Grades Primary to 3. Our statistics show that student achievement scores are low, and we need to reverse that trend. There will be an integrated program in these core subjects with essential outcomes clearly identified and indicative of success so teachers can clearly track and record student achievement.
There will be the return of math mentors to help students who are struggling and teachers who need support. There will be a return of the Reading Recovery Program….an evidence-based and research-based program for Grade 1 students who are having difficulty learning to read. These supports were slashed by the previous NDP government.
The class sizes in Grades P-2 will be capped at 20 students, and Grades 3-4 capped at 25 students. All of these initiatives are possible because our Liberal Government has identified math and literacy as priorities, and has committed to re-investing the $65 million cut from classrooms by the previous NDP government.
We have a responsibility and a commitment to our students to give them the best possible education so they can graduate and be ready for the many learning and employment opportunities that await them. We are doing this by making changes in the classroom so teachers can teach and students can learn.
In January, 2015 I introduced the Action Plan for Education that will set the path for change over the next 5 years. That change begins in September, 2015. In addition to the new P-3 curriculum, there will be a Ministerial Policy on Homework and another on Code of Conduct. These will replace all existing policies and procedures currently in place. Staff have currently been working with school policies, board policies and department policies. It had become very confusing and open to interpretation by various principals and teachers across the province. Having one policy that applies to all students, in all schools, in all school boards makes sense and will bring consistency for students, parents and teachers.
I am proud to be the Minister of Education, and to be part of a Government that, in spite of having real fiscal challenges due to over-spending by previous governments, has made a commitment to stand up for parents and students to make them a priority, and to re-invest $65 million dollars back into public education in Nova Scotia.
Karen Casey, MLA