Last week Manitoba’s government released education reform legislation based on recommendations from the long-awaited K-12 Education Report. For the first time in more than a generation, the structure underlying Manitoba’s public schools was examined. Not everything got a passing grade.
Manitoba has more school boards and trustees per capita than anywhere in Canada. School funding is based on complicated formulas linked to property taxes and house values, resulting in unequal funding in different school divisions. For example, River East Transcona had the lowest funding per student at $12,990 while St. James Assiniboia spent $15,508.
Teachers make different amounts depending on where in the Province they work, with salaries and benefits varying inside Winnipeg, too. Teachers with similar experience and education, teaching similar classes in different schools receive salaries and benefits that vary.
Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria all moved to single school boards years ago to even out similar inequities. Winnipeg will amalgamate its six school divisions and change its funding model to provide more consistency. Teachers province-wide will bargain centrally, something the Manitoba Teachers’ Society has wanted for years.
Manitoba’s 37 school boards will streamline into a single Provincial Education Authority, allowing for a more coordinated and even system and reallocating $40 million from duplicative school boards to the classroom. The goal is to increase the number of Educational Assistants, clinicians, teachers and other experts collaborating to strengthen literacy and numeracy and to support the mental health and wellbeing of our children. Parents will have more meaningful involvement in local decision-making through new School Community Councils. Principals, parent-councils and teachers will determine together how best to invest into our schools.
If the current system delivered leading results, it might be worth preserving, but decades of the present structure prove that is not the case. Under the previous government, Manitoba ranked last among provinces in every category of education outcomes. Despite spending the third highest in Canada, Manitoba was the only province to see reading levels drop between 2007 and 2013. In 2016, we ranked tenth out of 10 provinces in reading levels and math.
Our children deserve better than last place. It’s imperative Manitoba’s education system delivers better education. On top of building 20 new schools, these overdue changes will redirect money from Boardrooms to classrooms, streamline duplication and address inconsistencies to improve education for our children.
Andrew Micklefield is the MLA for Rossmere. He can be reached at 204.289.4545 or firstname.lastname@example.org