FREDERICTON (CNB) – The provincial government will make several strategic investments in education and early childhood development in 2011-12 to support children, students and families.

The announcement was made today by Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Jody Carr while presenting the department's main estimates for the new fiscal year.

"New Brunswickers have told us that education and early childhood development are important to them," said Carr. "This budget demonstrates that they are a priority of our government."

The operating budget, more than $1.052 billion, represents the largest one-year dollar amount spent on education and early childhood development in the history of the province. The budget is investing more in classrooms and less in operations and administration at the department and school district offices.

Highlights include:

●    investing $1.4 million to fund an increased number of early learning and childcare spaces;
●    increasing funding by $800,000 for the Daycare Assistance Program;
●    increasing pre-school autism funding by $2 million;
●    investing $1.4 million in Year Two of the Integrated Service Delivery demonstration project;
●    investing $3.1 million to maintain the number of teachers in public schools despite the decrease in the number of students;
●    investing $750,000 in the new School Supplies Fund for teachers;
●    increasing funding for support school support workers such as teachers’ assistants and clerical staff; and
●    investing in a review and updated action plan to continue implementing the MacKay Report.

"The people of New Brunswick have asked us to ensure that the education system is an effective and efficient system,” said Carr. “We will find efficiencies where we can, work smarter when we can and re-invest funding to focus on enhancing the education that students receive."

Initiatives to find savings and efficiencies from central office and school districts include:

●    continuing travel restrictions implemented in the fall of 2010;
●    decreasing the number of personal communications devices in use in central office and school districts;
●    reducing administration and operational expenses; and
●    reviewing policies, programs and administrative operations to ensure funding is invested more effectively and more focused as a means of achieving the greatest improvement in student learning in the classroom.

In the coming weeks, the department will meet with school districts to discuss their specific budgets to ensure that funding is invested responsibly, effectively and efficiently, and to ensure these budgets are tied to student achievement.