Manitoba announces minimum 2.5% increase in school division operating funds
School departments across Manitoba will see at least a 2.5 percent increase in operating dollars for the coming year, the province says.
The government has pledged $100.2 million in new funding for kindergartens for 12th-grade schools, up 6.1 percent from a year earlier, Education and Early Childhood Secretary Wayne Ewasko said at a press conference on Thursday.
While all divisions will get an increase of at least 2.5 percent, some will get more, officials said at a briefing earlier Thursday. This year, the province also looked at things like funding levels per student and socioeconomic factors — like income levels and how many children are in care — to determine funding.
“Our government believes that all students must succeed, regardless of where they live in our great province, their background, or their individual circumstances,” Ewasko said.
The money includes a $62.9 million increase in operating support, an additional $8 million in capital support payments, a $24 million increase in property tax credit and an additional $5 million for independent schools, he said.
It also includes $5 million for special needs funding and $20 million for other cost pressures, like inflation, in response to feedback from school departments, officials said.
Ewasko said while many prices have increased, transportation has been one of the biggest rising costs the departments are facing. For schools in northern Manitoba, heating bills are another concern, he said.
Looking ahead, the province expects inflationary pressures of about 3.8 percent in 2023 and 2.2 percent in 2024, Ewasko said.
According to Statistics Canada, inflation in Manitoba was 7.9 percent in 2022.
The government is also making permanent a one-time funding awarded to school departments last year at a cost of $106 million. This includes $22 million to support student presence and engagement.
“Building these increases into the annual allocation of funds to schools will ensure that these funds remain available now and in the future,” Ewasko said at the press conference.
Permanent funding of this funding will also help departments deal with financial pressures, strengthen student learning and support, and provide more support for students with specific learning needs, the government said.
The province also announced a change in the formula for determining the money guaranteed to school departments. Instead of a 98 percent financing guarantee, the divisions now receive at least 100 percent of the previous year.
“That’s a cut”
A total of $1.745 billion will be allocated to education for the coming year, with $1.651 billion in annual funding going to public schools. A total of $94 million in annual grants goes to independent schools.
This money does not include revenue from educational property taxes levied locally or capital funding.
The opposition NDP education critic Nello Altomare criticized the funding announcement.
“Make no mistake, this is a school funding cut by the government that brought you Bill 64 and told teachers to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets,” Altomare said in an emailed statement.
“We know children need more support in the classroom, not less. It is time for a government that puts children first and helps families.”
The announcement comes as Manitoba continues to work to completely transform its education funding model, with face-to-face consultations planned with each school department after the province releases its budget.
“Since I was a teacher myself before 2011, [I know] For years, education partners have screamed and screamed about the injustice and unfair funding being carried out through this education funding model,” Ewasko said.
“Each school department in Manitoba is unique and, as a result, each department faces unique challenges. Our government continues to work with school boards to address the challenges their departments are facing and to find solutions to help them meet the needs of their community fulfill.”