The Manitoba government is increasing operating support for public school divisions by an average of 3.4 per cent and leaving the door open to having divisions raise local taxes.
Overall funding to public and independent schools is to jump by $104 million for the school year that starts in September. Aside from operating funding, money will also go to fund 30 more teachers across the province in order to keep class sizes down, Education Minister Nello Altomare said Thursday.
Another $27 million will pay for an expanded school nutrition program announced earlier this week.
The operating funding will vary between school divisions, based on factors such as enrolment. Some are to get an increase of less than one per cent.
The provincial teachers union welcomed the new money and said it was steadier than annual funding announcements under the former Progressive Conservative government, which varied widely year to year.
“We’ve argued strongly over the past seven years for stable funding and we are happy to see that reflected in this announcement,” Nathan Martindale, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said in a press release.
The NDP government is also planning to make it easier for school divisions to raise their portion of local property taxes. Manitoba’s education system is funded partly by local taxes in addition to provincial funding.
The Tories had capped or frozen education property taxes at different times and established financial penalties for divisions that did not comply.
Altomare indicated those days are over.
“School divisions right now will be able to go to their local ratepayers and talk to them about their local levy,” Altomare said.
“They are certainly in touch with their community members and we trust them to do the right thing when it comes to that.”
The Tories, now in Opposition, accused the New Democrats of laying the path for divisions to hike taxes.
“They’re verifying today that Manitobans should be braced for tax increases moving forward,” Tory interim leader Wayne Ewasko said.
The government has promised to revamp the education funding formula in time for the 2025-26 school year. The current system has been widely criticized because its reliance on property taxes means divisions in poorer or less developed areas can see less revenue.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2024.
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