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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his government will put up millions of dollars in new education funding to help resolve a bargaining impasse with teachers.

The teachers, however, say they can’t be sure the premier will follow through with that promise. And their union says it’s planning more job action, which could put extracurricular trips and graduation ceremonies at risk.

Moe said Wednesday on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the upcoming provincial budget is to offer $180 million more in operating funding and $45 million more for classroom supports.

The budget is set to be introduced March 20.

“This should clearly demonstrate our government’s commitment to address teachers’ concerns around classroom supports,” Moe said.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the province have been at a standstill over a new contract, with teachers going on rotating strikes over the past month and planning to cancel extracurricular trips.

The union is demanding the province address classroom complexity and student supports in the collective agreement, which the government has said it won’t do.

Federation president Samantha Becotte told reporters Thursday the province has walked back promises before. She said the union won’t bargain until the government makes a commitment in the collective agreement.

“We have gone through a couple of occurrences, whether it’s the removal of funding in 2017 or a contract not fully funded, where we have been burned,” Becotte said.

“Teachers still remember those things, and this government needs to start working to build trust with teachers again, and that would go a long way to put it in the agreement.”

In 2018, the province announced it couldn’t fully fund an expected teachers’ contract.

In 2017, it cut the education budget by about $53 million. The union and school boards have argued funding increases since then haven’t kept up with enrolment growth or inflation, leaving classrooms worse off.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill told reporters he knows teachers have concerns around trust.

But he said the province is serious about funding education.

“And I can say, you know, if we have the honour of forming government again in October 2024, we’re not done. We’re going to continue increasing investment in education in this province because we know how important that is,” Cockrill said.

Opposition NDP Leader Carla Beck told reporters the Saskatchewan Party government can’t be trusted.

“They have made a hell of a mess in education. It’s going to take some time to clean it up,” she said.

“We need to start showing some respect and trust and start rebuilding what they’ve broken.”

Moe said he doesn’t want students to lose out on not being able to learn or participate in extracurricular activities.

“In recent years, we have seen the consequences of kids not being in the classroom. And we never want to repeat that,” he said.

The union has said the province’s intransigence has left them with no choice but to take job action.

Becotte said children have seen 10 years of decline in supports, and some classrooms have 40 students.

“We’ve heard the minister say that with the right kids, 40 might be a manageable number. There aren’t right and wrong kids. There are just kids who are coming to our classroom who have a right to a high quality, public education system. And this government is not providing it to them,” she said.

Cockrill said in early February a former teacher told him 40 students are easy to manage if there aren’t many complex needs in the class.

He said Thursday he would leave it up to school boards and divisions to determine classroom sizes.

Becotte said a deal could be reached and job action would stop if the province brings an offer to address classroom size and supports.

“Teachers do not want to take these actions. But we are taking these actions to ensure that in the long term they are going to be able to be as successful as possible from (pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12),” she said.

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