Feb 20 2017 – Kevin Yaworski – Parent and Public Advocate
Improving Education in Canada is a hot topic for many parents and other Citizens and now the Supreme Court of Canada is even weighing in. Some Provinces like Manitoba have tax payers paying among the most per capita or per student in Canada yet getting some of the lowest results in return. Some in administrative roles argue basing provincial standings on performance is biased as the difference between top and bottom is only about 3% and some Provinces face unique challenges. Even if so the data on where the money spent makes it pretty clear there is a spending issue not a level of taxation issue. More than enough is being collected.
Most Provinces and the Federal Government are struggling with large annual deficits and much larger net debts carried over from previous years and governments. In all cases the biggest cause of this has been fiscal mismanagement. In other words a spending problem not a revenue problem. The largest spending problem in most cases is out of control bureaucracy in government, school boards or divisions and other public bodies. In most cases much higher than Canadian average senior or executive to staff ratios, salaries, expense accounts, pensions and other benefits.
With increasing interest rates and some hit by multiple credit downgrades this has become a very serious issue.
Some including at least BC and Manitoba have decided to focus on removing or increasing class size caps, limiting number of speciality teachers and assistants and other cuts that directly affect front line service (quality of education). Yet they doing very little to reduce out of control bureaucracy with many more superintendents and other very well compensated positions than are needed to maintain the same standard and quality of education.
Some like Manitoba have amalgamated school divisions in the past with cost reductions and improvements in quality and standards of education but not nearly as much as other Provinces have done like Alberta where there is as little as for cost per student is much lower and quality or results are much higher.
Manitoba has recently frozen most public servant wages force years and limited increases for two more including teachers as well as consolidated collective bargaining units so there is a more fair process for both sides (taxpayers and unions / servants). This has caused tension since the Government is not leading by example with no cuts or freeze for them, Police, Judges are others that are compensated very well and in many cases well above Canadian average even for public sector.
Another issue for many teachers that most do not feel comfortable to speak about or not allowed to after pressure from parents or administration is integrating more exceptional students into the regular classrooms (formerly refered to as special needs) but not increasing the number of teacher assistants or specialty teachers to maintain the same level and quality of education on average. These students can be disruptive and time consuming for teachers without the additional resources. They need to be counted as 2 or 3 students depending on the circumstances but in many cases this not being done and with caps removed this will only get worse.
If this integration done proper it improves the quality of life and education of those integrated and helps other students appreciate the challenges they face.
One more issue needing attention is not reducing class sizes in universities for education degrees while increasing class sizes in public schools and reducing funding. This setting up many graduated to fail and change career or leave the province. More on this below.
Here is more details.
On March 14 2017 the Manitoba Teachers’ Society says it was baffled that the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government said it was dumping legislation that required K-3 classrooms sizes to be limited to 20 students, meaning school divisions can set their own class sizes starting in the 2017-18 school year.
In MB some school divisions like Louis Riel have not changed class sizes yet but have increased school taxes for property owners instead of reducing bureaucracy. Others like Winnipeg One have.
This along with large and not reducing university education degree seats and teachers forced to or choosing to work longer to save more for retirement is making it even harder for graduates to find full time work in a field already hard to crack into.
In BC this matter even made it to the Supreme Court of Canada who reinstated the class caps and related language at least until the next CBA negotiated.