July 5, 2015


Special air quality statement in effect

Latest News

Today's lesson on making do

Education minister unveils small funding hike

Teacher Erin Murphy works with her grades 2/3 class during reading time at O.V. Jewitt Community School Thursday.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Teacher Erin Murphy works with her grades 2/3 class during reading time at O.V. Jewitt Community School Thursday. Photo Store

Seriously, school trustees -- can you provide a quality education next September without raising school taxes?

Education Minister James Allum declared Thursday he's done his job -- now it's up to school trustees to do their job of providing a quality education with the money they already have.

Education Minister James Allum says school boards don't have to raise taxes.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Education Minister James Allum says school boards don't have to raise taxes. Photo Store

The rookie minister unveiled next year's public schools operating grants Thursday, providing a two per cent increase of $24.4 million.

Allum repeatedly insisted he's given school boards the money to provide the best-quality education, and he'll work with them to concentrate existing resources in the classroom without raising property taxes.

The first place to look, he said, is administration costs.

'It's a well-financed system. I do believe there are sufficient resources within the existing system to fund what we want to see happen. What we're suggesting is they do have sufficient resources' -- Education Minister James Allum

Manitoba School Boards Association president Floyd Martens was skeptical.

"At this point, I don't know what the full impact is going to be. To look at no tax increase for all school divisions, that would be hard to achieve," said Martens, from Dauphin-based Mountain View School Division.

It's especially tough when 18 of the 37 school divisions will get zero increase under the provincial funding formula, Martens said.

Thursday's increase maintains the NDP's record of increasing its share of public funding by at least the rate of provincial growth.

Allum said the new money will be poured into improving basic math, reading and science skills, and boosting high school skills training and career development.

"There will be a fund -- more (details) to come in the future," he said, noting the fund will come from the $24.4 million. "We really want to drive the quality agenda -- to focus on career development, focus on skills-training. That's what we want the school divisions to focus on," said Allum.

Allum's funding announcement was probably the tersest since the NDP took office in 1999 -- few details, a lack of specific new programs and concentrated new money rather than a long list of projects.

Allum said in an interview there will again be a zero guarantee this year -- no division will receive less money than a year ago, but 18 of the 37 will not receive a penny more than last year.

"It's 18, and four out of six in Winnipeg," he said. Allum said Winnipeg and Seven Oaks school divisions will get more money.

The province has capped administration costs for close to a decade at four per cent urban, 4.5 per cent rural, and five per cent in the north, but those were guidelines he's now made law, Allum said.

"This is just a first step in those administration caps. We'll review them every year," he warned.

The minister said some divisions are spending beyond the maximum on administration, but could not immediately provide a list or say how much money they're overspending -- money he wants to see in the classroom.

Among the things Allum will not do: He won't cap or freeze property tax increases, he won't impose amalgamation of school divisions, he won't change the provincial moratorium on closing schools without community consensus, he won't get involved in teacher contract bargaining and won't tell school boards how many teachers they should employ or how much they should pay their teachers.

"It's a well-financed system" was Allum's mantra Thursday. "I do believe there are sufficient resources within the existing system to fund what we want to see happen. What we're suggesting is they do have sufficient resources."

Allum said divisions can form partnerships to share resources. "In every partnership, you're achieving economies of scale," he said.

Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson cautioned he wouldn't want to see partnerships involve businesses looking to make a profit out of public education.

He was happy the province found even two per cent. "Given the economic context, something standard is commendable," Olson said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

What do you think of James Allum’s challenge to school trustees? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 6:47 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Scroll down to load more

Top