Education minister says he’s unaware of whether Iqaluit students were miscounted
“I have to follow up on if there is any discrepancy or mistake with the department”
Nunavut’s minister of education, David Joanasie, says he doesn’t know if his department miscounted Iqaluit students last year.
That’s in response to assertions by Doug Workman, chair of the Iqaluit District Education Authority, who said during his organization’s annual general meeting on Monday that the department made a mistake during its 2017 student headcount.
As a result, Iqaluit’s schools received a smaller budget for programming and fewer teachers than required for the 2018-19 school year, Workman said.
According to Workman, an audit done by the Department of Education found the student count to be off by 44 students.
But, in an interview with Nunatsiaq News, Joanasie said he did not know the results of that audit or who at the Department of Education was involved with it.
Joanasie also said he did not direct such an audit to take place.
“I have to follow up on if there is any discrepancy or mistake with the department. I need to figure out who had confirmed that and of course, yes, if there is a discrepancy, we will have to resolve that,” Joanasie said.
The Education Department usually conducts a count of students on Sept. 30 each year. The resulting number is used to calculate how many educators should be hired the following year and the size of the DEA’s budget.
Last year, the department conducted its count later than usual, in mid-November. As a result, Workman said the department counted a smaller number of students than it would have if it checked earlier.
Workman said the district lacked at least three educators this year to meet the maximum allowable student-educator ratio, 13.8 students to one educator, mandated in the Education Act.
The Education Act also requires that each year that ratio should decrease.
Although Joanasie says he continues to promote the Sept. 30 deadline for inputting the data, if some schools or districts are late in putting their numbers into the system, it can stall the process.
“Our system has some limitations in that we have to pull the data at one time. And of course all the data isn’t inputted at the same time, so we have to wait,” said Joanasie.
Because of these delays, the department retreived the data on Nov. 15, 2017, he said.
While Workman said the department had conceded that it made a mistake using a headcount from a later date, Joanasie said that conclusion hasn’t yet been reached.
“First we have to figure out if the department was in the wrong in the first place,” Joanasie said, when asked if more teachers would be hired.
Joanasie said the department is also reviewing its funding formula, and that it sent letters to DEAs last spring requesting feedback on how it could be improved, along with the student-educator ratio formula.
Joanasie hopes to present these changes to cabinet “in the near future.”
“(The student educator ratio) only considers the principal, teaching staff and student support teachers. It doesn’t look at language specialists, learning coaches, school councillors, student support assistants,” said Joanasie.
“As part of our review of the formula, we are looking at the whole complement of staff at the schools. All schools should have the learning coach and principal so … we are at the national standard of 13.8 to 1, looking at the whole complement of staff, taking those things into account.”
Joanasie said the Department of Education will draw this year’s data of student headcounts this week.
“We have no motive to reduce resources for any DEA. We are trying to work with the best data possible so that we can come forward and say this school needs more resources,” Joanasie said.