The Manitoba government will increase funding for public schools by more than $6.6 million for the 2020-21 school year to a record total of $1.33 billion, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.
Manitoba has the third-highest spending per student in Canada at $14,733, after Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
“This investment in our public schools demonstrates our government’s commitment to students’ success,” said Goertzen. “This funding is the most ever committed to public schools in Manitoba’s history. Since 2016, funding to elementary and secondary education has grown by nearly $33 million.”
The funding comes in addition to the province’s guarantee to build 20 new schools during the next decade. Two new schools in Winkler and Niverville have been completed and are in use by students. Three new elementary schools in Brandon and Winnipeg are under construction and will open later this year. An additional two new schools in Waverley West are being designed and are scheduled to begin construction before the end of this year, the minister said. In addition, school expansions are happening across the province with openings this week in Neepawa and La Salle.
The cost of these 20 new schools is approximately $500 million, Goertzen said.
The province will also continue to ensure all school divisions receive no less than 98 per cent of the operating funding they received a year earlier.
“Like all levels of government, school divisions need to make choices and carefully prioritize spending decisions,” said Goertzen.
School division administration expenses topped $65 million in 2018-19. To increase transparency, the Department of Education has released an out-of-province travel summary for school divisions. This disclosure of travel expenses is similar to what is in use for Manitoba members of the legislative assembly and cabinet ministers. A list of school divisions' out-of-province travel expenses can be found at www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/finance/sd-opt/index.html.
The minister noted that school divisions currently have an accumulated operating surplus in excess of $98,000,000.
School divisions, as well, raise revenue through local education property taxes. The minister is again requesting that school divisions limit increases to education property taxes to a maximum of two per cent for the 2020-21 school year.
The government looks forward to receiving the final report of the Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education, which has an expected public release at the end of March. The commission is leading a comprehensive and independent review of Manitoba’s entire public elementary and secondary education system.
Woodlawn and Southwood Elementary School have officially diverged from the traditional structure of a school day.
Where most schools operate with a lunch break and two short recesses, Woodlawn and Southwood have been operating on two 25-minute nutrition and activity breaks instead. The concept is called a “Balanced School Day” and has been a two-year-long pilot project. The result? Considerable.
Danielle Funk serves on the Hanover School Board as the Chair of the Education Committee. She is also a mother of students affected by this new program. Both roles, she says, have given her a favorable first impression.
From what she has heard from teachers, the three longer blocks of learning afforded by the Balanced School Day principles has increased student attentiveness and decreased restlessness.
“In my kids, I’ve noticed a change in behavior after school,” offers Funk, “and they are less tired and less hungry.”
Funk says most of her fellow parents have noticed a similar shift in attitude.
“I would say it has been very successful. I’m sure there a few people who have some difficulty with it, but overall it has been very well-received."
Considering this success, the schools have asked the HSD Board to permit them to continue with their Balanced School Days indefinitely.
The board unanimously approved the request.
Funk says there is no word yet on whether or not other schools in the division are interested in adopting a similar procedure.