Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/31/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 01/31/2014 6:47 AM | Updates
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.
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.
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.
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
Updated on Friday, January 31, 2014 at 6:47 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Accused killer tries to plead guilty again
Fringe candidates get attention they deserve
Sentencing in child-abduction trial could be broadcast
Bank of Cda makes molehill from mountain
Crash kills Flin Flon man
Fighting in Ukraine prompts residents to flee
New weather stations to help flood forecasters and farmers
UN chief reinforces call for Gaza cease-fire
Suspect dead, marshals and cop wounded in NYC
Record crowd flocks to fringe
Gloves off in hockey player fight lawsuit
Israeli PM warns of prolonged campaign in Gaza war
OurWinnipeg planning report to be followed, says mayoral candidate
Swimmer Lacroix golden at Commonwealth Games
The Situation agrees to anger management classes
Canada's Frizell wins gold in hammer throw
SC mom's arrest sparks child care debate
Preview of Folklorama at News Café today
Astronaut landing at the Concert Hall in December
Growing movement to treat PTSD in responders
House says US airlines can advertise pre-tax fares
FAA proposes to fine Southwest Airlines $12M
New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare
911 call reveals unusual home intruder - a snake
Sunny, warm week in the forecast
Man dies in suspicious downtown highrise fire
Online post eggs on anti-Ford actions: police
Sailors to navigate dirty water in 1st Rio test
Cops: 'Spider-Man' slugged officer in Times Square
Mall collapse report won't be kept secret
Mall construction boom fuelled by wealthy
Grain mixed, livestock higher
US fuming over Israeli criticism of Kerry
Dozens treated for illness at Keith Urban concert
Virgin America files plans for IPO
Radcliffe goes undercover as Spidey at Comic-Con
Red Lobster goes vertical on plate to push quality
Health costs are biggest retirement worry
Pesticide use in Manitoba rising despite looming ban, data shows