FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released its budget estimates today of $1.1 billion for educational services and programs for students and preschoolers in 2015-16.

“Education and early childhood development is a top priority for our government because we recognize children and youth must receive the best education possible,” Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Serge Rousselle said. “This budget will ensure New Brunswick children continue to receive high-quality educational and early childhood services, and it will promote the long-term sustainability of the public school system.”

New investments in early childhood development represent more than $3.5 million. Total funding allocated to the Early Childhood Development division totals $76.8 million. Of that amount, $23.6 million has been allocated to the Quality Improvement Financial Program to provide wage enhancement to educators working directly with children in regulated childcare facilities. The Preschool Autism Intervention Program has received $15.8 million. In addition, almost $10 million has been allocated to projects such as a new childcare registry, an early intervention program and new licensing technology.

Educational Services, which includes prescribed instructional programs, has received $786 million, while $27 million has been allocated to the school district offices. Funding for the planning and operation of school facilities totals $113.8 million.

While making a major investment in the public schools, Rousselle highlighted the need to make the educational system more efficient, particularly in light of the constant decline of the student population over the last decade. This means that difficult decisions must be made, particularly in terms of human resources.

This will result in a reduction of 302 positions out of a total of 13,851 employees, including 249 in schools, as was previously announced, 21 in school district offices and 32 at the central office in Fredericton. Rousselle said the department will work diligently to mitigate the impact of the change on students and classrooms.

“As all departments are facing the same reality, difficult decisions are required within the public education system as well,” Rousselle said. “But this challenge gives us an opportunity to rethink our department, programs and services in order to help restore our province to a position of strength in the future, particularly in the education system.”