Changes Needed in K- 12 Education Funding


Changes Needed in K - 12 Funding:

A Submission to the Commission

Presented August 19, 2003 in Prince Albert


To the Commission on Financing K-12 Education:

My name is Gerald Regnitter. I am the Green Party of Saskatchewan Candidate for Saskatchewan Rivers in the next election. Saskatchewan Rivers is most of the area north of Prince Albert to the National Park, and from Big River to east of Nipawin.

< Green Party of Saskatchewan Has clear Policy Positions ...

The Green Party of Saskatchewan has clear policy positions on taxation reform and on key issues in Education that are relevant to the work of this Commission. These are part of our election platform and will be part of action by a Green Party of Saskatchewan Government. You can check out these and other relevant policies and principles on our website at

< Issues Overlap ...

Education funding cannot be discussed without also discussing issues of education governance and issues of fair taxation.

My presentation is not intended to deal with all of the fine points of the discussion, but rather to point to the principles that members of the New Green Alliance believe need to be enacted in Saskatchewan.

The process by which people in Saskatchewan influence educational decisions varies between jurisdictions, and sometimes follows legislative and regulatory procedures, and in others, simply follows local practice or discretionary procedures of Boards of Education.

< Creation of new “School Councils” ...

The Green Party of Saskatchewan believes that some decisions about education are best made at the provincial level, some at the level of a Board of Education, and others best made by a democratically-elected, school-level Council that addresses issues particular to each school..

A Green Party of Saskatchewan government would mandate the creation of democratically-formed Council for each Saskatchewan school that would have funding and authority to make appropriate school-based decisions. Such Councils would have distinct mandates and access to financial resources to carry out these mandates. Funds would appropriately be handled through Board of Education accounting and would not require any new administrative structures.

This would change School Council roles from advisory to decision-making roles in those areas. The mechanisms for effective accountability of local school Councils could be patterned, in part, on mechanisms now used for school-based budget procedures used by some jurisdictions, with the difference being that it would be a School Council making decisions rather than just a school-based administrator.

< Local Funding Does Not Ensure Local Control ...

Local control of local education decisions is not assured by local property taxation, which, to some degree is determined by a local school board but primarily by provincial Department policies. Such local control is more effectively guaranteed by legislative requirement to have effective and democratically selected school councils that address local school issues.

The issue of local decision-making is quite separate from the issue of local-source funding. If the two issues were linked we should have seen a corresponding increase in local control of education decisions as the portion of local funding rose over the past decade. This has not happened. The relationships still are controlled by legislation and regulation.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan believes in decisions being made at the lowest possible level, but this does not mean that the funding must come from local sources. The Green Party of Saskatchewan supports a significant shift away from property-based taxation for education to a general revenue source.

< Responsibility for Education Lies with Whole Society ...

TheGreen Party of Saskatchewan also believes that the effective development of our young citizens is a responsibility of the whole society, with different parts of our community playing varying roles in that development. Saskatchewan has long recognized that the education of our young citizens is a public rather than a private responsibility, and correctly so. The role of our societal interventions have been supportive of family / parental efforts in some areas, and have taken over primary responsibility in other areas. We have worked out patterns that have met the needs of the larger society, of individual families, and of children in a reasonably successful manner over the years.

Part of that pattern has used the mechanism of local funding for K-12 education along with some provincial funding and provincial control of management of the funding process. This has produced the current situation which this commission is reviewing.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan believes that the current shared situation is not appropriate to our population demographics nor is it appropriate to a system of fair taxation.

< Education Funding Requires General Tax Reform ...

If we remove education funding from property taxation, as well as reduce property taxes as the Green Party of Saskatchewan also proposes, we need to reform other elements of our taxation system. It is the conviction of the Green Party of Saskatchewan that resource extraction industries and larger corporate entities are undertaxed, while small property owners (most homes and farms included) are over taxed. A simple shift from property taxes to income taxes will add some degree of fairness to the system, but more is needed. A graduated system of revenue taxation should replace the education portion of property taxes for businesses. If this were done businesses would pay taxes that reflect the revenue they generate from being part of the Saskatchewan economy, rather being based on than the assessed value of land on which they are situated.

Another way of addressing taxation revenues from lands that have experienced capital gains would be to tax the capital gain more effectively rather than to tax “assessed values” annually when that assessment has little or no bearing on income generated from that property.

< Special Need For Reform in Resort Areas ...

The area represented in the Saskatchewan Rivers Constituency contains numerous resort communities in which our present system of education funding is especially unfair.

Cottage or recreation property holdings are not revenue producers. Frequently they are a second or third property that is being taxed for purposes of education funding.

Although part-time cottage / resort residents are permitted and encouraged to have a democratic voice in municipal matters by voting for municipal councillors or reeves, they are forbidden to do so for school board members, even though as much as 75% of their tax assessments goes to fund the local school district. In Lakeland RM calculations show that the taxpayers of the RM send as much as $70,000.00 per local student educated by Sask Rivers School Division, yet most of the taxpayers have no right to vote in school elections.

Many cottage owners are people who have inherited a lake property or whose life savings have been directed toward a place to enjoy retirement activities, and whose incomes are fixed or limited. Rising taxation rates on these properties threaten their capacity to hold on to a treasure they have worked for much of their lives and which they hope to pass on to children or grandchildren.

People who express their outrage at the injustice of this system are not declaring an unwillingness to pay their share of education costs. They are declaring their outrage at a grossly unfair and unrepresentative system of taxation for education.

< Summing Up ...

Once again, if we correctly declare that the children of this society, regardless of where they live, are the concern and responsibility of the whole society, it is incumbent on this society to create a system that asks all citizens to participate in the support of their education in a fair fashion. People, in general, are willing to be taxed locally for things that they determine locally and from which they benefit locally. It is clear that the education of our children does not fit those considerations, and therefore should not be funded by local property taxation.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan and many Saskatchewan people know that a property tax base for education funding is even less fair than is local funding for post-secondary education, for health care or for a provincial highway system. We need a system that is funded from general revenues derived from a significantly reformed system of personal and corporate taxation. Along with this taxation reform we need to democratize the process of citizen control of education governance, especially with the mandatory creation of School Councils that have proper funding to realize appropriate local educational goals.

We have seen Saskatchewan communities taking innovative (and some would say extreme) measures to maintain local control over their schools when centralized decision-making was leaving them out. This too speaks loudly of the need for real reforms of our system. The intrusive and insulting questioning that citizen supporters of the Englefeld Separate School Division are being subjected to by the Humboldt Rural School Division as regards their decision to support a local school should be abhorrent to all of us. Yet, it is the predictable outcome of our current system of centralized decision-making and local tax-based funding for education.

In conclusion, I reaffirm the Green Party of Saskatchewan positions for the creation of effective local School Councils, for the removal of education funding from a property tax base, and for a more sweeping reform of how our society collects the revenues necessary to benefit all citizens.

Submitted by Gerald Regnitter
Box 289, Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan, S0J 0N0
Phone: (306) 982-3614 email:


From the Green PArty of Saskatchewan Platform 2003:

A Progressive Taxation System

A Green Party of Saskatchewan Government will reform Saskatchewan’s taxation system so that it is more just and more effectively supports the development of local communities and sustainable, self-sufficient local economies.

These reforms would include:
- a reduction of regressive PST and property taxes, with a subsequent shift of education funding to general provincial revenues.
- reduced taxes on environmentally “friendly” purchases
- the elimination of municipal business taxes,
- The establishment of a scaled (graduated) revenue tax that would apply above a given threshold to replace the current municipal business tax system.
- a return to communities of a percentage of the PST as a “Community Development Tax Return”, enabling municipal and community groups to provide services to citizens according to locally determined needs and priorities.
- the implementation of a more progressive income tax system based on ability to pay,
- a minimum tax imposed on all profitable corporations,
- a luxury value-added tax,
- higher royalties applied to the extraction of natural resources to support local communities, and a community based economy.


A Green Party of Saskatchewan Government will accept responsibility for funding early childhood intervention and “pre-school programs” where required, in addition to traditional responsibility for the K-12 education system.

A Green Party of Saskatchewan Government will ensure the implementation of an “Ecological Literacy” curriculum, which also has practical application components, in all Saskatchewan schools.

A Green Party of Saskatchewan Government will mandate the democratic establishment of “School Councils” for each Saskatchewan school, these School Councils to have the responsibility , along with adequate funds, to make appropriate school-based decisions.

A Green Party of Saskatchewan Government will restore adequate public funding to Saskatchewan's universities. The corporate sector's growing stranglehold on universities shall be eliminated. All qualified citizens of Saskatchewan are entitled to free higher education as they are to health care and secondary education. For all academically qualified residents, student tuition fees will be rapidly reduced and eventually eliminated for four years of education.

From the Founding Principles of the Green Party of Saskatchewan:

Participatory Democracy
All citizens must be able to directly participate as equals in the environmental, economic and political decisions that affect their lives.

We must return power and responsibility to individuals, communities and regions. We must encourage the flourishing of regionally based culture, rather than a dominant monoculture. We must have a decentralized democratic society with our political, economic and social institutions locating power on the smallest scale that is efficient and practical. We must reconcile the need for community and regional self-determination with the need for appropriate centralized regulation in certain matters.