January 24, 2019 2:02 pm
Updated: January 24, 2019 7:33 pm

Manitoba holds the line on school funding at 0.5 per cent – the same as last year

WATCH: The Manitoba education minister said Thursday education funding will increase by 0.5 per cent in the next fiscal year, with school divisions held to a tax increase of 2 per cent.

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The Manitoba government signalled more spending restraint Thursday by boosting funding to public elementary and high schools by just half a percentage point and capping school property tax increases at two per cent.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the Progressive Conservative government will also soon direct new reductions in school administrative costs on top of a 15 per cent cut last year.

“I think it’s a reasonable balance, given the economic environment that we’re in,” Goertzen said.

WATCH: Manitoba school divisions expected to ‘hold the line or maybe tuck in a little bit’

While overall funding is increasing by $6.6 million, more than half of all school boards – including the Winnipeg School Division, the province’s biggest – will see a slight decrease this year due to declining enrolment and other factors.

WATCH: Province bumps education funding up 0.5 per cent. Global’s Joe Scarpelli reports


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The announcement was criticized by the Opposition as a de facto cut when inflation is taken into account.

READ MORE: Education review to look at reducing, eliminating elected school boards in Manitoba

“This will have serious impacts on students,” NDP leader Wab Kinew said in a written statement.

“The Pallister government must fund education properly, by keeping pace with enrolment and the rate of economic growth.”

Premier Brian Pallister’s Tories have been trying to keep a lid on spending as part of a campaign promise to balance the provincial budget by 2024. Manitoba has been running deficits since 2009 under the former NDP government.

Goertzen said the province’s wage freeze on public-sector workers that was announced two years ago will help school boards control costs. Salaries account for roughly 80 per cent of all education expenses, he said.

READ MORE: Manitoba Teachers Society sends strong message during general meeting

The Manitoba School Boards Association said Thursday it will be a challenge to deal with the funding limit.

“Inflationary pressures continue to rise,” association president Alan Campbell said.

“Something as basic as … an increase in hydro rates makes it more expensive to heat and light schools in Manitoba. These are [the] types of things Manitoba schools boards have to consider.”

The government’s funding announcement came one day after it revealed a new commission that will review education in the province with an eye to improving grades and controlling costs.

Goertzen is not ruling out reducing or eliminating elected school boards as a result of the review. The Nova Scotia government eliminated elected school boards last year and replaced them with a 15-member provincial advisory council.

WATCH: Manitoba education getting first comprehensive review in 50 years

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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