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Manitoba education costs soar as enrolment declines, study says

WINNIPEG – The per-student cost of educating Manitoban children is soaring but there’s little evidence kids are learning more, a new study suggests.

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy study found enrolment in Manitoba schools decreased 3.5 per cent from 2002-03 to 2012-13, but spending increased by about 48.5 per cent, a news release from the centre says. The number of educators increased 5.8 per cent, the study found.

“It’s unsustainable over the long-term,” saod Rod Clifton, the author of the study.

The Consumer Price Index, which is used as an indicator of price inflation, rose 20.9 per cent over that time, the report states, pointing out that if education cost increases had been held to that, the province would have saved $421 million in 2012-13 alone.

Manitoba students recently ranked the lowest in the country when it came to the test scores in science, reading and math.

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“The point of spending more is going to get you the results obviously we are a great example that in this province that is not necessarily happening,” said Wayne Ewasko, the PC education critic.

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In the Winnipeg School Division, enrolment decreased by 2.3 per cent, while per student spending increased 41.1 per cent (an increase of $3,273 per student) and the number of educators increased by 4.2 per cent, the study says.

Other school divisions with costs rising faster than sometimes declining enrolment include:

  • Louis Riel: Enrolment decreased 7.9 per cent, per student spending increased 56.8 per cent ($3,930) and the number of educators decreased 2.2 per cent;
  • Portage la Prairie: Enrolment decreased 5.5 per cent, per student spending increased 42.6 per cent ($3,061) and the number of educators increased 3.8 per cent;
  • Border Land: Enrolment decreased 2.7 per cent, per student spending increased 66.3 per cent ($5,046) and the number of educators increased 11.3 per cent; and
  • Hanover: Enrolment increased 20.7 per cent, per student spending increased 67.8 per cent ($3,693) and the number of educators increased 41.2 per cent.

Clifton is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and senior scholar at the University of Manitoba. He has a PhD in the sociology of education from the University of Toronto. The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is a Winnipeg-based think tank that gets much of its funding from the Donner Canadian Foundation, which supports conservative research.

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The province’s education minister says teaching children is not cheap.

“The technology, the libraries, supports for students and student services, special need funding all of that is the whole picture of education,” Peter Bjornson.

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