The most recent Program for International Student Assessment show Manitoba's 15-year-old students are a year behind their counterparts in Canada's top performing provinces when it comes to reading and science, and more than half a year behind when it comes to math.
People often point to high graduation rates as a sign of success, but if our students are falling far behind their Canadian peers in learning outcomes, how can we possibly count graduation as a success? That’s why in Manitoba Bold your Winnipeg Chamber called for a firm action plan to move Manitoba into the top three provinces outcome-wise by 2021.
The Winnipeg Chamber has also long advocated for an amalgamation of all school divisions in Winnipeg. We remain the only large city in Canada with multiple school divisions. The recent provincial education funding announcement included a 15 per cent reduction in the school division administration cost caps. While this isn't amalgamation, the move will keep costs down.
The province also announced a two per cent cap on local education property tax increases, preventing any major property tax increases. The Chamber supports moving the authority to set the property tax mill rate back to the provincial government from school boards, in order to ensure greater consistency.
While the property tax cap will help keep rates down for Manitobans in the short term, cost control remain important. The most recent provincial budget projects total education spending of $4.4 billion. Twenty years ago, the entire provincial budget was $5.3 billion, of which education spending was around $1 billion annually. Even ten years ago, the education budget was around $3.1 billion annually. As test results show, all that spending has not resulted in a better education system. Studies also show no clear relationship between student outcomes and teacher compensation.
At the end of the day what we all want are better student outcomes. Let’s spend more time debating how to improve student outcomes, rather than debating the size of our education spending increases.