HOW THE TWO EDUCATION ERAS STACK UP
Student numbers have been inexorably declining, with only minor blips of growth, to 200,087 as of Sept. 30, 2014, from 209,352 in 1987.
What’s striking is that public-school students as a percentage of overall enrolment have dropped to 90.1 per cent from 95.2 per cent.
The increase in home-schooled children has been nothing short of extraordinary: to 2,970 during the last school year from 186 when NDP premier Howard Pawley left office in 1988. (However, changes in how government oversees home-schoolers suggest there may well have been more than 186 at that time.)
Private school numbers made a big jump during the Filmon years (1988-99) — no surprise, given the Tories introduced per-student operating grants in response to a court challenge. Private schools receive 50 per cent of the per-student money spent by the public school division in which they are located — far short of the 80 per cent the private schools wanted, but still more than $50 million a year.
Manitoba now has a $2.25-billion public education system, more than double what it was when Conservative premier Gary Filmon took office in 1988.
The money spent on operating the public education system annually grew 23.3 per cent during the Filmon years, and 80.5 per cent under the New Democrats.
Teachers’ salaries and benefits have always been by far the highest portion of education costs regardless which party is in power.
During the Filmon years, the costs of classroom teachers as a percentage of overall spending dropped to 51 per cent from 56.7 per cent, as the Manitoba Teachers’ Society claimed 700 full-time equivalent teaching jobs disappeared. But the percentage has dropped even further under the NDP, to 47.3 per cent, as hiring of certified teachers in non-classroom roles such as resource teachers, reading specialists, math consultants, guidance counsellors and specialneeds teachers has increased dramatically.
The Tories had a low increase in spending per student, to $6,612 from $5,418 per child, during their time in office, an increase of 22.9 per cent.
The NDP has since almost doubled 2000-01 spending per student to $12,248, a jump of 91.9 per cent.
There has also been a dramatic change in the student-teacher ratios.
Under the Tories, classroom sizes got bigger by 4.7 per cent, while the NDP has shrunk class sizes by 12.1 per cent.
An even more dramatic change is visible in educator-student ratio of all certified teachers in the school to all students. That ratio got 7.7 per cent larger under the Filmon Conservatives, to 15.4 students for every certified teacher; under the NDP, there are 13.1 children for every certified teacher in the school, a drop of 14.9 per cent.
The Filmon Tories increased operating grants for public schools by 7.5 per cent, while the NDP has pumped 85.1 per cent more in operating grants into the system.
Statistics Canada figures show the cost of living rose in Manitoba 28.7 per cent during the Filmon years, and by 33.7 during the NDP years (up to Dec. 31, 2014).
Meanwhile, the amount of money school divisions collected under the special levy went up 72.4 per cent in the Filmon years and 121.4 per cent so far under the New Democrats.
However, such figures are not so easily compared, especially given what the NDP has done in its 15 years.
There have been changes in taxation on farmland, and a farmland tax rebate. The NDP phased out property taxes paid by universities. The property tax credit became an education property tax credit close to a decade ago, even though it is now and always has been a reduction on property tax bills and isn’t available to school divisions to spend. For four years, the NDP offered a tax incentive grant (TIG), which was extra cash under a complex formula for school divisions whose boards chose to freeze taxes — TIG became part of the province’s base grants to that division the following year, regardless whether trustees froze taxes again. TIG is no longer offered.
When the NDP took office, the education support levy was paid by every residential property taxpayer at a uniform mill rate across Manitoba. Even though it was collected through the property tax bill, the ESL was considered provincial funding, not municipal taxation. The NDP phased out the ESL on residential properties, but continues to collect it on commercial properties.
Again, they’re difficult to compare, because the average teacher has changed a lot over the years.
Teachers’ qualifications are defined in seven classes, but for more than a decade, pretty much every new teacher hired has been at least a Class 5. In 2003, the province introduced the five-year afterdegree program, in which future Class 5 teachers first get an undergraduate degree, then a degree from a faculty of education.
A typical teacher these days is considered a Class 5 teacher who has maxed out on incremental increases after 10 years. A Class 5 teacher can become Class 6 with a master’s degree, or a Class 7 with a PhD or two master’s degrees.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society says an average teacher in 2000 made a mid-$50,000 salary.
The MTS website says the median salary for a Class 5 teacher with 10 years’ experience is now $84,162, an increase of 53 per cent — well above inflation but well below the overall cost increase in operating the public education system. (Remember, however, teachers from each of those eras’ have vastly different qualifications.)
Teachers have settled in 23 of the 37 bargaining units in Manitoba. While each division’s teachers bargain for specific changes in working conditions, money has been the same in each deal: a 2.0 per cent raise in September of 2015, 2016 and 2017, with almost all of them also agreeing on two 1.5 per cent raises six months apart in 2018. That’s 9.03 per cent compounded over four years.
Last year, seven Class 7 teachers in Thompson became the first regular classroom teachers to crack the $100,000 barrier. By the time the new deals expire June 30, 2018, most Class 6 and 7 veteran teachers will be in six figures, and that typical Class 5 teacher with 10 years’ experience will be in the very high $90s.