The education sector has requested the Manitoba provincial government take another look at how it funds schools to ensure division is adequate.
Education Minister Wayne Ewasko announced the government will meet with divisions and stakeholders to ensure “all feedback is considered” in terms of how school divisions get money.
“As we focus on improving literacy and numeracy, Indigenous education, and student engagement and well-being, the views of our partners in education are incredibly important to us,” Ewasko said in a provincial release.
“We are taking the time to consult with divisions and stakeholders to ensure all feedback is considered and we get the funding model right for those who need it most—Manitoba’s students.”
In February the province announced a model which would see $100 million more funnelled into the public education system to account for a 6.1-per cent increase. However, some school divisions crunched the numbers and found their cut came up short.
Seven Oaks School Division levied more taxes on residents to make up for budget shortfalls in response to the funding. While the division got a $3.3 million share which represented a 3.9-per cent increase, their math coupled with a tax freeze translated to a 2.1-per cent increase.
At the time of divisional budget talks, a letter to parents penned by Seven Oaks board chair Maria Santos said the new provincial funding is not enough to cover an expected increase in enrolment and rising operating costs.
“Our schools have dealt with budget challenges for the past five years. We’ve been forced to cut staff, freeze budgets and trim programs,” Santos said in the letter.
“We are forced to contemplate further reductions including cutting teachers, eliminating programs like Learn to Swim, closing schools to after-school programs and eliminating busing for grade seven to 12 students.”
Ewasko’s response at the time was to reiterate the province’s funding model for the division, which was the equivalent of a 3.8 per cent funding increase over last year.
“With the inclusion of the Property tax offset grant, which provides funding equal to a 2% increase on local taxes, Seven Oaks schools division is receiving a 3.8% funding increase,” Ewasko said in an email to Global News.
“Seven Oaks school division received $88,373,206 of total funding in 2022/23 and are receiving $91,702,413 in total funding for the 2023/24 school year, which again represents a 3.8% overall increase.”
In early May NDP Leader Wab Kinew accused the Tory-led government of planning to cut education funding when he tabled portions of a document which suggested divisions would receive less money under a proposed new funding model.
Finance Minister Cliff Cullen said the document was part of a proposal which was developed months before that.
“What was tabled today was a model that was completely rejected by our government,” Cullen said at the time.
A new educational funding model was proposed in 2022 based on early feedback, the province said in a release. With last week’s passing of the provincial 2023 budget, consultations will continue.
— with files from Global News’ Shane Gibson and The Canadian Press
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