Provincial funding for English as an Additional Language programs in the Brandon School Division has not kept pace with the increasing demand, Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer said Monday at the Manitoba legislature.
“When Maple Leaf announced it was opening up a plant in the community, community leaders knew there would be a substantial impact on the school division and many of us wanted to ensure the education system in Brandon would be able to handle the growth without a huge impact on the taxpayers of Brandon,” Helwer said. “Premiers Filmon and Doer both assured Brandon that the province would assure that Maple Leaf’s arrival would not have a negative impact on the Brandon School Division’s financials.”
Helwer’s questions came after a recent announcement by Education Minister Nancy Allan, who said $1.2 million is to be added to EAL programming across the province. That announcement will bring EAL funding to $11.7 million in 2012-13.
The Brandon School Division has as many as 316 new students in the EAL program and 1,240 in all, up from 103 in 2006.
“How can people in Brandon trust anything this government promises?” Helwer said. “The taxpayers of Brandon have paid millions of dollars for EAL. Why has this government continually downloaded the costs associated with EAL on the Brandon taxpayer?”
Allan responded to Helwer’s inquiry by noting the government has increased funding and investments into the public education system since 1999.
“I think it’s important, if we want to get right down to numbers … I want (Helwer) to know that when they were in power, taxes went up 72 per cent and in the Brandon West constituency, they have gone up only 5.4 per cent over the course of our whole mandate because of our investment in the public education system. I’ve had an opportunity to meet with Mark Sefton, the chair of the Brandon School Division. I’ve had an opportunity to meet with the Brandon School Division and the Mayor in Brandon.”
Sefton said he has discussed Brandon’s growing EAL needs with Allan several times and the rapidly expanding program and was originally thrilled to hear about additional funds earlier this month.
But as it turns out, the provincial EAL funding announcement was actually a re-announcement, Sefton said.
“I’m very disappointed,” Sefton said. “The way it was rolled out a couple weeks ago… it sounded like new money. It turns out that is money that had already been committed, and had already been announced, so it’s nothing new. So there is no additional funding coming to Brandon School Division for EAL.”
Helwer said he addressed EAL funding in the legislature in response to concerns he had heard in the city.
“They are not living up to their commitments,” Helwer said.
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with files from Jillian Austin
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 29, 2012