Education – The 90% Solution

There are a number of problems within the education system that must be addressed by a new provincial government as the old administration seemed to view them as inconsiderable. There are many children, some with elevated and extraordinary needs, and families poorly served by the current system. To remedy these failures, a new government must implement profound and broad changes to the school system and its operations. A redistribution of monies is the first and primary task to ensure that the challenges posed are confronted and settled successfully. Currently, extravagant amounts of money are spent at the school board level rather than in the schools. The Manitoba Party will institute a rule as swiftly as possible that of the funds raised for education in the province, at least 90% must be expended at the school level. The remainder, 10% or less, will be directed to underwriting the costs of administration.

With the funds collected and properly apportioned to meet the problems posed by each and every child, the system shall overcome its repeated failures. No longer shall teachers and parents of students be forced to pay for items out of their own funds whilst the school board administrators garner ever greater sums to educate a stagnating number of children. This abhorrent practice of diverting needed funds to enlarge the administrative class will cease and recede to the imposed percentages listed above. Violations shall be met with severe penalties imposed upon the school board and its officials including firm and binding remedies as well as loss of employment. With the supply of teachers and resources enlarged at the school level, there shall be no scarcity of funds when the challenges of educating children of all kinds appear.

 

The following letter was sent by the Seven Oaks School Board to the Kildonan area candidates seeking information on their various stances on public education topics. In the Manitoba Party we do not vote as a block, and believe more in the independence of candidates to assess the problems and provide solutions. So answers may differ among our MP candidates. Here are the responses of Gary Marshall, MP party candidate for Kildonan.

The Board of Trustees of the Seven Oaks School Division would like your response as a candidate to issues that concern us as a school board and concern the community we serve.

1. Because Seven Oaks School Division has little commercial assessment it is disadvantaged. Clearly Seven Oaks School Division spends less than other school divisions yet Seven Oaks taxpayers pay more. What will your party do to remedy this?

2. The current government has consistently funded schools at or above the province’s rate of economic growth. What is your party’s commitment to education funding?

3. The current government is implementing a class size limit of 20 pupils in Kindergarten to Grade 3. What is your party’s policy on class size limits?

4. Seven Oaks School Division is both the fastest growing and most crowded school division in Manitoba. What is your party’s commitement to investment in new schools and improvement to facilities?

5. What is your party’s position on standardized tests?

6. Given that previous school division amalgamations have resulted in significant cost increases, due to the costs of aligning collection agreements and programs, what is your position on further school division amalgamation in Winnipeg.

 

Response of Gary Marshall, Manitoba Party

I would just begin by saying that I chose to become a candidate in the approaching provincial election because I am very disturbed by the present state of affairs in government practices and policies. Unbridled squander and maladministration are 2 words that I use frequently to describe them. And these 2 words apply directly to the mismanagement one finds in our public education system. The demands upon the taxpayers for funding school boards and schools have risen to exorbitant levels, yet the results are dismal. A large segment of the native population is leaving our schools badly educated and condemned to face a lifetime of limited opportunity and finances, and grievous struggle. So the Manitoba Party is looking at a complete reformation of this broken or failing system so that all children receive the resources required to equal their chances with others in life. To provide a detailed description of the problems afflicting the public education system, a critical component of any civilized society, and our prescribed solutions in so few a words is near impossible, but I shall try.

Firstly, the education system is there to fund education: schools and the education of children, not ever expanding bureaucracies. The Manitoba Party will institute a rigid rule that at least 90% of all funds raised for education will be spent in schools, under control of the principal. When needs arise at the local level for pre-school, post-school, and lunch time programs, there will be funds immediately available to cover those costs. If a daycare operation is needed, then again funds are there. If some children present enduring difficulty with reading or arithmetic, then special tutors may be hired and brought in to bring those students up to speed. If some children come from homes in which finances are limited, then the school may provide for supplies or even a decent breakfast at the discretion of the principal. If a number of parents express a hope for the participation of their children in some special activity, then approval may be found in the principal’s office.

There need be no need for a tedious and perpetual communication with School Board officials for funding local needs.

Secondly, the perpetual demand upon taxpayers for ever greater sums of money, well above inflation rates, to educate the same or fewer children betrays a horrendous failure of management to properly oversee disbursements. I believe that your financial statement does not include the added funds given annually to the Teachers’ pension fund. Nor does it include the capital budget. So your figures require some adjustment to reveal the true and greater costs of educating children.

With such incompetence appearing in nearly every school board across the province, certain members of the Manitoba Party favour with review and proper preparation transferring the funding of the education system to the province and away from local authorities.School boards will continue to enjoy autonomy over bettering the education of children and the application of resources to that worthy objective, but it shall no longer confiscate and spend as it pleases.

The Alberta Department of Education has a detailed handbook about 140 pages in length detailing the funding of students with every conceivable need at schools of every conceivable type and circumstance, even home schooling. With nearly every contingency covered, it would not take long to set up a similar system here with such an impressive resource.

Thirdly, the Manitoba Party will ensure a greater choice to parents in selecting schools and the types of schools they wish their children to attend. If a special school in one area should provide a needed method of education unknown in other areas, the parents will be free to transfer their children.

Fourthly, measurement of achievement is always a good thing. The only way to find a problem is to look for one. And I believe that we should monitor the success or failure of the education system and the children educated by every means possible. Do I favour greater testing? YES I do. Knowing which schools need work, which students need work, which teachers need work leaves every parent, child, teacher and school far better off.

To sum up, there is plenty of money in the education system. The problem is that a good portion of it is spent badly. For example, our roads are in a state of disrepair and have been so for years. Yet, there is plenty of money for costly police stations, Human Rights Museums, sports stadiums, and rapid transit debacles. And so it is with the education system.

By transferring funds from school boards to schools, by apportioning funding to the number of students rather than the proliferating number of school board employees or lavish management fees and salaries, there will be an abundance of money for the required tasks.

More money to build newer schools and alleviate crowding, to aid failing students, to fund special schools, to aid in home schooling children if the parent should choose, to set up schools that may appeal to specific parents.

So to answer your questions specifically:

1. With control of funding schools transferred to the province from local school boards and general procedures for funding the number of students implemented, the Seven Oaks School Board should see more money entering its schools than previously. This should resolve the disparities in its education funding.

2. You proudly note that the current government has lavishly funded education above rates of inflation. I only wonder about results. Have more children been educated, have they been better educated. When I know the answers to these questions, I shall better know whether the funds have been wasted or used wisely. I expect the former. With our new system and rules of funding students, there will be far greater sums of money available for educating children and ensuring they are educated well.

3. Class sizes will become the responsibility of the principal to decide. If too many students leave the teacher overwhelmed, adjustments can be quickly made.

4. By transferring money out of school board offices into schools, the problem should disappear quickly.

5. More measurement is better.

6. I don’t think amalgamations are the answer to the public education system. Local autonomy is best and best at the school level and less at the school board level.

I hope this helps in assessing our positions on public education. One of the virtues of the Manitoba Party is the independence of its people to decide the issues on their own without interference from Party management. The views expressed are my own. However, I am sure they will many in the Party sympathetic to and supportive of them.

Regards,
Gary Marshall
Manitoba Party