New Brunswick’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development budget for 2022-23 will see more funding to improve access to affordable child care, increase access to technology and support mental health, inclusion and wellness.
This year’s $1.6 billion budget was tabled at the provincial legislature on Wednesday.
“To support the future of our province, we need to make sure every New Brunswicker has the right tools for success from the very start,” said Dominic Cardy, minister of education and early childhood development, in a news release.
“By lowering the cost of child care for families, while promoting the recruitment, retention and training of early childhood educators, we can set up our youngest learners for success throughout school and the rest of their lives.”
Cardy says his department plans to invest $110 million to improve access to quality, inclusive and affordable child care. It intends to reduce fees at child care facilities by 50 per cent this year.
The investment will also increase pay for educators and provide them more professional learning opportunities. It lines up with recent commitments made under the Canada-New Brunswick Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.
The department will spend another $1.9 million to increase access to and awareness of “early childhood intervention services.” According to the government, the programs would help identify and assist the province’s youngest learners as early as possible.
It would mean improving long-term outcomes for students while supporting inclusivity in education.
On top of that, the department will invest $5.8 million in the anglophone school systems, while $2.2 million will go toward francophone schools. The province says this is to increase resources for inclusive education.
This comes after a recent review of the department’s Inclusive Education Policy, which establishes the requirements to ensure New Brunswick public schools are inclusive and students have what they need to succeed.
It means parents can expect to see more school support staff, such as speech-language pathologists, social workers, behaviour intervention mentors, guidance counsellors, resource teachers and specialists in assessment and intervention.
The government says the move comes after the recent signing of an agreement with the New Brunswick Union, which will “support the recruitment and retention of school psychologists” through pay raises and other improvements to working conditions.
“Over the past two years, we have seen added pressures on our mental health resources as the needs of students increased,” said Cardy in a news release.
“By investing in inclusive practices, we can make sure the basic needs of students are met so they can focus on learning. Together, we can help counteract the impacts of the pandemic.”
Other highlights of this year’s budget include the following:
- $2.35 million to expand French second-language projects in anglophone schools and early learning and child care facilities.
- $1.35 million for supports and language learning for newcomers in the francophone sector.
- $1 million to continue the Laptop Subsidy Program for students entering Grade 9 from low- to middle-income families.
- $1.8 million to maintain access and capacity within school buildings and on the provincial network, as well as enhance network security.
The investments are meant to support the province’s commitment to building a “world-class education system” through work related to expanding food programs and updating curriculums to accurately reflect Black and Indigenous history.
The province also wants to provide students with more hands-on learning opportunities like CO-OP programs to help them explore their interests and future career options.