SECTION 6 FundingApril 21, 2021
SECTION 1: Long Term Vision
SECTION 2: Student Learning
SECTION 3: Teaching
SECTION 4: Accountability for Student Learning
SECTION 5: Governance
SECTION 6: Funding
Winnipeg School Division’s Recommendations
Every Manitoban has a vested interest in the K to 12 education system. The funding of the system will determine the success of present and future students. Accordingly, forming a funding model that addresses the diversity of student needs is essential. Funding system changes have been an integral part of reforms made across Canada and the province should be reviewing the funding system in its entirety along with the rest of the K to 12 education system in Manitoba.
This section responds to the following areas:
- System characteristics that contribute to sustainability.
- Equitable funding.
- Achieving both equity and excellence.
- Funding gaps.
- Taxation Authority.
- Facilities, management, operations and maintenance.
- Shared services and procurement:
- Geographic considerations and on-line learning.
SYSTEM CHARACTERISTICS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SUSTAINABILITY
The current K to 12 education system is a sustainable model, however, there remains a great deal of room for improvement. Historically, the Manitoban K to 12 education system has fluctuated between funding cuts and funding growth due to several factors. Oftentimes, funding and governance structures lead to an inconsistent and inequitable provision of education for students. Funding for the K to 12 education system should be based on the needs of the current environment – and designing a funding model that reflects that is important.
Stability is important for an effective K to 12 education system and WSD believes that multi-year funding with adjustments for inflation, contingencies and capital investments would result in improved stability of education programming and services that benefit all students. Funding strategies need to be connected to education goals – so the learners needs can be matched appropriately with funding. Funding should be focused on student academics and student needs.
Recommendation 26: That the Province of Manitoba take greater leadership in supporting schools and developing long-terms plans that will contribute to a more effective and efficient education system.
WSD has a high concentration of low-income households. Of the 78 schools in the division, 17 had an average income below $40,000 and 24 had an income below $50,000. WSD also has the highest percentage of Indigenous students in Winnipeg, representing over 23 percent of students. Nearly one quarter of WSD’s students living with their parents are recent immigrants. Approximately 7,000 students are newcomers and refugees to Canada. WSD is proactive with various organizations to provide services for newcomers such as counselling, referrals, vision and hearing testing, and increasing language proficiency.
The high rate of poverty in WSD had led to unique challenges for our students and can be aided with more intensive resources. Programs focused on addressing poverty early on, as well as those addressing the current population’s achievement gap, are needed. Schools with high rates of poverty may require additional funds to support programs, staffing and interventions. Providing equitable funding will make it possible to see some progress in closing the achievement gaps. Integrating more equitable elements in to the current funding model is necessary in order to see the improvements that the education system is striving for.
ACHIEVING BOTH EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE
Winnipeg School Division has a long-standing commitment to equity and is a leader in supporting equity with innovative policies and practices, programs, inclusive curriculum, professional development, achievement initiatives and existing equity measures.
WSD has a proven record of building partnerships with outside agencies to fund special programs unique to the division and in keeping with the needs of today’s industry. WSD provides responsible management of tax dollars and resources to ensure long term fiscal sustainability and accountability to the programs, facilities, and services provided to the community. This includes transparency in the reporting of finances and operations, annual budgets and consultations, implementing long term capital plans, prioritizing infrastructure renewal, effectively allocating resources and seeking operational efficiencies.
WSD has prepared a document titled Financial Facts which provides open sharing of WSD data and financial information.
To meet the unique community needs, WSD has funded many programs which are not currently supported by provincial funding.
Explicit arrangements with targeted funding could help support certain programs and could benefit both those who are involved with the program and those who are not – so they are not missing opportunities due to limited funding or capacity. This arrangement would be particularly helpful for provincial initiatives such as adhering to the Accessibility for Manitoban’s Act.
Additionally, the Department of Education and Training must better coordinate the funding and efforts of its partner departments that are meant to address the needs of students that are more than educational. Services external to education, like nutrition, health, and justice programs should be directly funded by the appropriate department instead of absorbing funding meant for education.
The shared funding model between the province and local school divisions has changed over time. The intention of having local funding for local programs is an increasing challenge. The growing portion of local funding is being directed to supplement core education programs. Furthermore, local taxation authority has been limited by the Province of Manitoba.
Therefore, WSD can only meet some of the local requirements (eg. School resource officers, autism programming, anxiety program, etc.) even though our community is requesting more supports.
Finding the balance between meeting the needs of students and keeping property taxation increases at a reasonable level remains a very delicate process. A discussion paper on Alternatives to Property Tax was delivered to MSBA and encouraged discussion between all levels of governments and school boards to review an 80/20 split funding model, which could equate to a shared responsibility of funding public schooling between the province and school boards. This funding model argues for an increase in the provincial share of funding while also emphasizing the importance of the autonomy of school boards. It allows school boards to offer unique programs, service enhancements and options for students that reflect local needs which, without that authority, the delivery of which may be compromised.
Recommendation 27: That the Province of Manitoba engage in a fully comprehensive review of the K to 12 funding model.
FACILITIES, MANAGEMENT, OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE
Winnipeg School Division facilities services operates in a cost-effective manner that follows principles of sustainability. WSD’s footprint consists of 78 schools over 5,130,000 square feet of varying vintages and 301 acres of grounds.
Facility services consists of all operations and maintenance costs, including supervisory and clerical personnel, related to the upkeep, maintenance and minor repair of all school division buildings and grounds. This includes utilities, taxes, insurance, supplies and capital costs.
In 2016, WSD approved a Five–Year Capital Plan Submission to the Public Schools Finance Board for the years 2017/2018 to 2021/2022.
The Province of Manitoba needs to review the funding formula for maintenance and operation of school division facilities and include more equitable elements into the formula, such as the age of buildings and mandated updates (e.g. AMA legislation).
SHARED SERVICES AND PROCUREMENT
Many school divisions are already collaborating with Winnipeg School Division on a shared service model for increased cost effectiveness. Significant funds are spent on support functions including business operations, transportation, food services, facilities management, information technology, supplies, non-instructional functions and more. In order for the shared services operating model to be successful, it needs to be carefully planned, analyzed, monitored and implemented.
Manitoba Education, Research and Learning Information Networks (MERLIN)
Manitoba Education, Research and Learning Information Networks (MERLIN) was established in 1995 as a special operating agency with the Department of Education and Training. It was formed as a facilitating body to coordinate the delivery of distance education and technology services to the education community across Manitoba.
Merlin does not have a monopoly for its services in Manitoba, but it does have a unique position in the education community, allowing for the provision of an education-specific component to decision-making, provincial coordination, and advisory services.
Services offered by MERLIN:
- Partner Programs
- Provincial Licensing and Purchasing
- Internet Access
- Technical Training Services
- General Support to the Education Community
Currently, WSD pays $405,000 to MERLIN and each school division has a separate agreement.
The Province of Manitoba should review opportunities for additional shared services for MERLIN within the province and MERLIN services remain intact for all school divisions regardless of any reform.
GEOGRAPHIC CONSIDERATIONS AND ONLINE LEARNING
Manitoba has a large land mass covering 649,950 km2 with a widely varied landscape. The province services 228,848 school students (based on enrolment as of September 30, 2018). Both geographic size and student enrolment should be considered when looking at options for structures and boundaries.
Due to geographic considerations and availability of courses, online learning should be explored further. E-learning credit courses could benefit students in the province with a wide selection of subjects, an ‘open style course’ similar to post-secondary, a reduction in time table conflicts and an overall improvement in the access to education.
During 2017/18, WSD and InformNet (Manitoba’s online high school) piloted online courses. Results from this pilot program are quite promising with over 30 credits earned by a wide range of students.
Transportation expenses are a significant cost for WSD (2018/19 FRAME report budgeted annual cost per pupil $2,797) and are difficult to contain. Reviewing transportation along with some other business areas (e.g. purchasing and technology) from a provincial point of view may be worthwhile.
The Province of Manitoba needs to review all school divisions K to 12 transportation of students costs to identify savings through shared services with other school divisions and/or other stakeholders such as City of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Transit.
Notably, WSD participates in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Purchasing Group and collaborates with other school divisions across Manitoba in shared purchasing agreements in order to obtain services and school resources cost effectively. Most recently, WSD developed a request for proposals for lead testing on behalf of all divisions in Manitoba.
Recommendation 28: That the Province of Manitoba explore all applicable areas where shared services could lead to enhanced fiscal responsibility.