School divisions deal with small provincial increase

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The Manitoba government will increase its funding for kindergarten to Grade 12 public schools by $6.6 million, or 0.5%, for the next school year and direct school divisions to cap education property tax increases to 2%.
The province’s funding will rise to $1.329 billion overall for the 2019-20 school year.
The decision could trigger some backlash. The province also raised its funding by $6.6 million last year, which a teachers’ union and school divisions deemed a de facto cut for falling below the inflation rate.
Since school funding to each division is calculated using a complex formula that relies on an equalization factor and changes in each division’s enrolment, some school divisions will see a greater increase while others see funding stabilize or decline.
Garden Valley School Division will receive a 0.5% increase while Western School Division will see their funding rise by 4.4%.
The province also currently guarantees that divisions receive at least 98% of their previous year’s funding. This year, 15 of the province’s 37 divisions will see funding fall by 2%.
The province says it expects its civil service salary freeze legislation to help relieve the financial pinch on school divisions. A provincial press release notes salaries account for about 80% of education expenses.
The announcement comes one day after the province revealed a broad kindergarten to Grade 12 education review will explore whether to reduce the number of school divisions or get rid of them entirely.”
Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen said it’s important to note that divisions dealing with growth will still see their funding rise. He downplayed the effect of the second straight year of less than inflation increases.
“I think all Manitobans recognize there have been some significant, very robust increases to education over the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “I think Manitobans also understand we are all together facing a tremendous challenge in terms of sustaining our system going forward.”
Friesen said the deficit the province deals with affects funding in many areas. “Clearly a government that continues to spend in deficit with no plan of extricating itself is a government that is only inviting higher and higher operational costs.”
Friesen said the newly announced K to 12 review will be looking for efficiencies, but added there is nothing decided in advance of the report. “I would say that anyone who claims we should not review our K to 12 system is on the wrong side of the argument,” he said.
School divisions are planning their budget hearings.
Garden Valley School Division will host their budget consultation meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 at Northlands Parkway Collegiate.
– with files from Greg Vandermeulen

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