Ensuring that our education system is adequately funded is important, but that doesn’t make it simple. In fact, the way in which our K-12 education system is funded in Manitoba is very complex. It is a mixture of funds that are provided directly from the provincial government and those that are raised by local school divisions but collected by municipalities. Funding from the province generally is based on the number of students enrolled but there are many additional funding components for various needs.
And while it is an overly complex system of funding, that doesn’t change the fact that there needs to be adequate funding and that, in the end, there is only one taxpayer who is paying for it, regardless of how many levels of governments are drawing the funds through taxation.
Recently, the annual funding for schools announcement took place. It was announced that the Manitoba government would add $6.6 million of funding for the coming school year, bring the total funding to $1.33 billion. In addition, local school divisions can increase their taxation levels by 2%. The increase that each division receives isn’t the same however as enrollment plays a significant factor in funding. While the overall enrollment in the public school system has decreased slightly over 20 years, there are many areas that have seen rapid growth. Those areas will see an increase in funding greater than the provincial average to reflect that growth.
Overall, Manitoba taxpayers support their K-12 education system more generously than most other provinces. In fact, Manitoba spends $14,733 per student, the third highest in the country. The level of funding per student has more than doubled over the past two decades, well above the rate of inflation. In addition, nearly half a billion dollars has been committed for the construction of 20 new schools over the coming decade. School divisions have also been asked to reduce their executive management by 15% and to reinvest those savings back into the classrooms.
And while the support that is provided for the public school system by taxpayers is significant, funding isn’t the only measurement of success for education. Most parents are focused on how their child is doing in school, both academically and socially, not how much money is being spent. And while funding plays a part in those outcomes, there is not a direct correlation between spending and outcomes. In fact, in Manitoba over the past 20 years funding has grown significantly at the same time results for our students as compared to others in Canada have fallen.
It is almost impossible to find the perfect balance when it comes to budgeting public funds. It can be, and should be a challenge, as tax dollars are scarce. But the balance must also measure more than just financial inputs, it must look at what outcomes are being achieved for students and how prepared they are to take on new challenges when they graduate from the K-12 education system.
As our government prepares to receive the final report from the K-12 Education Commission, we are committed to looking at both financial inputs and educational outcomes in working to improve the education system. The future success of our province depends largely on ensuring that the right balance is found.