WINNIPEG – On the surface, it’s technically an increase.
The Progressive Conservative government announced a $13.1-million increase to the public education budget, which is a one per cent boost.
But that’s much smaller than the 2.55 per cent increase last year, and it’s thought to be one of the lowest annual increases to the budget since the last time the Tories were in power.
It’s also smaller than the annual rate of inflation, but it’s true to the message that the PCs ran on to get elected: preaching fiscal responsibility in the face of a billion-dollar deficit inherited from the NDP.
Education Minister Ian Wishart made the announcement after kicking off I Love To Read Month at a local school.
“The message we’re trying to get out is that we certainly appreciate school boards showing some moderation in their requests, trying to be careful with their dollars, trying to find some efficiencies. There’s always something out there you can do better and more carefully to try and keep costs under control.”
The total budget is over $1.3-billion, which is about what it was last year. Wishart says one of their focuses will be on improving outcomes in literacy, math and science, subjects in which Manitoba students struggle compared to their national classmates.
“We will be changing some of our priorities, redirecting some of our existing resources towards improving outcomes. We’ll be using some of the existing dollars in different ways.”
Where the money will be redirected from is not yet known, pending a full evaluation of the current funding model. Wishart also says they want to hold off on announcements until the current school year is over.