Good news for schools and universities -- the NDP won't cut or even freeze you next year.
Public schools and universities will get at least the same increase in funding next year as they got this year, new Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum said this week.
'I regard schools as community assets. Consequently, we want to keep them open. If they're not there, you have weak neighbourhoods and weak communities'
None of Allum's recent predecessors has made such assurances months before official funding announcements.
The NDP has always increased kindergarten to Grade 12 operating grants on its share of funding the public school system by at least the level of provincial growth, and that won't change despite economic conditions, Allum said.
Kindergarten to Grade 12 public schools received 2.3 per cent, or $27.2 million, extra funding this year.
And universities can expect to get at least the same 2.5 per cent hike to operating grants as this year. Tuition will remain capped at the rate of inflation.
Allum said the NDP has increased public schools' operating grants by more than $450 million since 1999, including the $27.2 million this year.
"That's been our historical record, and I don't expect that to change," Allum said. "We want quality in the classroom."
The Selinger government reneged this school year on the last year of a three-year commitment to boost university grants five per cent, settling for 2.5 per cent. Still, it was far better than the slash-and-burn budgets in provinces such as Alberta.
"You look at trends in post-secondary education and everyone is going backwards," which undermines the economy and everything provincial governments need to do, Allum said.
"My firm belief is it will not be less than 2.5 per cent next year. That is the expectation (among universities), and what I think we will deliver on," the minister said.
Allum said it is premature to take positions on other major issues after two weeks as minister, though he will look at every aspect of K-12 funding, including a possible cap on education property-tax increases. However, government policy will remain hands-off on teachers' contracts unless both teachers and trustees want the province involved; now, only teachers want provincewide bargaining.
Expect no change on amalgamation of school divisions -- still completely voluntary -- and on the 2008 moratorium on closing small schools, said Allum.
"I regard schools as community assets," he said. "Consequently, we want to keep them open. If they're not there, you have weak neighbourhoods and weak communities."