The School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) is one of the 20 Manitoba school districts that will see an increase in funding from the provincial government for the 2021-22 school year, Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced Feb. 5.
SDML will see its provincial funding go up 2.5 per cent or $850,000 next school year, to $33.3 million, thanks to increases in special needs support and equalization funding. The district will also receive an extra $100,000 to offset property tax increases, as school divisions have been asked to freeze their property taxes.
Seventeen Manitoba school districts will see their funding stay the same go down next school year, though the government committed to ensuring that all of them receive at least 98 per cent of the funding they had for 2020-21.
Perspectives on the provinces overall school funding increase of $20.8 million, up 1.56 per cent from last year to $1.35 billion in total, depends on who’s doing the talking.
“This announcement continues our commitment to the success of students by making record levels of annual investment in our students’ education while also keeping our students, teachers and staff safe,: said Cullen in a press release. “Our education system is one of the best funded in Canada and parents need to know that our government will continue to support their children’s futures.”
The province says it spends $14,815 per student, third-highest in the country behind Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.”
The provincial opposition party says the funding increase of less than two per cent fails to match inflation for the fifth straight year and therefore qualifies as a funding cut.
“It’s the desire to provide the best for our children that motivates teachers and parents every day,” said NDP education critic Nello Altomare. “But the PC government doesn’t seem to share the same basic motivation. That’s why they continue to make cuts to out children’s education even in the middle of a pandemic. Our kids deserve better – they deserve funding to keep them safe and help them learn.”
Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont agrees that the increase is not enough.
“Schools and school divisions are facing massive, unmet costs because of COVID-19,” he said. “For the province to boast of ‘record funding’ is like boasting about dong record amounts of bailing when the ship is going under.”
Lamont said the NDP is also to blame for the current state of education in Manitoba.
“Under the NDP, the provincial share of education continually dropped, and its current MLAs include school trustees who ignored urgent infrastructure needs like ventilation, which haven’t been fixed for 40 years.”
The union that represents Manitoba teachers said that when capital funding is removed from the equation, the increase in provincial school funding over this school year is barely one per cent.
“The government boasts that this is the most funding public education has ever received, but that’s only half the story,” said Manitoba Teachers Society president James Bedford. “What is missing from this narrative is the fact that this funding is not enough to meet the increasing needs of Manitoba’s K-12 student population. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the important role of public education in our society, It has also highlighted the significant inequities in the system. With everything that has happened in the past year, the government’s continued refusal to invest in public schools is incomprehensible.”