Few changes expected to WSD draft budget
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The Winnipeg School Division’s draft budget for the coming school year cements its support for expanded bilingual programs and partially answers residents’ requests for more educational assistants in classrooms citywide.
Given no delegations registered to raise issues about how the board plans to spend $454.8 million in 2023-24 during this week’s public consultation meeting, few changes are expected to the draft document released last month.
Board finance chairwoman Tamara Kuly said many residents have expressed surprise WSD is proposing a more or less “status quo” spreadsheet, because there have been significant staffing and program reductions in recent years.
Senior administrators at the central school board, the largest of its kind in the province, have calculated WSD’s overall funding increase to be four per cent, or $8.3 million new dollars for next year.
In response, the division is pitching a blueprint that includes roughly 25 new full-time equivalent EA positions and six bilingual language teachers. The latter group is anticipated to staff the September expansion of Earl Grey School’s Spanish stream and the launch of a Filipino option at Meadows West School.
Kuly said dollars will also go towards retaining Indigenous graduation coaches and maintaining high school nutrition programs, after-school hubs, and land-based learning initiatives — among other pilots that received one-time funding last year.
The EA proposal will meet “about half of the known need, right now,” said Kuly, who represents Ward 7.
The trustee noted there are significant learning gaps and mental health concerns in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic disruptions to school, and family life and finances.
“We’re seeing other divisions, as well as ours, really struggle to provide all of the things that are needed in community. We’re lucky this year that we didn’t have to cut,” she added.
The board is not anticipating any significant changes to its enrolment for the foreseeable future.
There are currently about 30,000 children and youth enrolled in central schools and upwards of 5,700 employees, including teachers, EAs, bus drivers, clerical workers and administrative staff, in the district.
All 37 public school boards have until March 15 to finalize their budgets for 2023-24.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.