The province is increasing funding for public school divisions, but it’s also directing them to be fiscally responsible.

Education Minister Ian Wishart announced today the province will invest $1.323 billion in public school divisions for the 2018-2019 school year, an increase of $6.6 million or 0.5 per cent.  

He also announced the province is telling school divisions to limit any increases to their local education property tax to two per cent.

The province is also reducing existing administration cost caps by 15 per cent, to help control administration costs.

Wishart says those costs have risen by $5.6 million or nine per cent over the past three years in Winnipeg school divisions.

“We believe governments at all levels must live within their means and provide services they can afford,” Wishart said at a news conference this afternoon. “When school divisions create their budgets for the year ahead, we expect them to manage their expenditures accordingly.”

“This means making decisions that best suit student’s needs while considering the impact on local ratepayers and Manitoba taxpayers.”

Wishart said the province will be strongly recommending school divisions follow these suggestions but they are not going to be bound by law. However, some penalties could come down for divisions that don’t follow the regulations, but Wishart couldn’t say what those might be.  

The province also plans to move to a streamlined, single provincial bargaining table for public school teachers, down from the existing 38 collective bargaining units. Wishart said Manitoba is the only province where teacher collective bargaining is conducted exclusively at a local level.

The province will hold public consultations in order to create a bargaining framework for Manitoba teachers.

The provincial government isn’t done looking at education financing, however. In a release, the province says it will conduct further examination in early 2019 when it launches its review of the kindergarten to Grade 12 education system.

That review will include public consultation on a number of topics.