The Brandon School Division will receive $180,000 from the province for the 2013-14 school year to help phase in the mandate to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classes at 20 by 2017.
The announcement came as a disappointment to board chair Mark Sefton, who says the division needs to hire 36 teachers for the 20K3 initiative. The funds will only allow three new teachers to be hired next year.
“Our projections show that we’ll need 36 (additional teachers) by 2017, just to meet 20K3,” Sefton said. “And then of course, we’ll need more beyond that to handle the immigration.”
The division estimates it will require more than $2.5 million to implement the provincial class size mandate.
“So to receive only $180,000 … and $131,000 last year … for a total of just over $300,000 when we need to hire in the neighbourhood of 36 teachers, we’re not getting there very quickly, are we?” Sefton said.
This week the provincial government announced it will spend $4 million in the coming year to hire 69 full-time teachers for the 20K3 initiative. During the 2011 election, the NDP promised to cap class sizes in kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms at 20 by 2017.
With an ever-increasing student population, Brandon School Division is already running out of space. The division has expressed its need for a new school and has requested 12 portable classrooms from the Public Schools Finance Board for next year.
“In addition to those 36 teachers, we need spaces in which they can teach,” Sefton said. “There is going to come a time when we don’t have the space to put those teachers in those classes, that time is approaching very rapidly.”
In preparation for the 20K3 initiative, Brandon school board trustees passed a motion in July to hire nine new teachers at a cost of $756,000, while the province only provided the school division with $131,223 in funding to help ease the cost of reducing class sizes.
“We felt then, that we really needed to get a good start on it because there were just too many places where our numbers were out of whack,” Sefton said. “It was better to get going on it early, just because it makes more sense long term to get your biggest problems dealt with first.”
A spokesperson with Manitoba Education said their projections indicate the province is “on track to helping Brandon School Division become cap compliant.” Based on the information they have now, the province estimates Brandon will need 12 more teachers to reduce the size of classes in K-3, a much smaller number than the division’s projection.
The division’s provincial operating grant also accounts for increased enrolment, according to the spokesperson. Class size initiative funding is over and above this operational funding.
“Brandon of course is a growing community and we’ll keep working with the school division to give families in the area the best education possible,” according to the provincial spokesperson.
“We are working closely with school divisions to assess and plan for the operating and capital supports they will need to make reduced class sizes a reality. The province is committed to supporting school divisions as we implement this key initiative that will support Manitoba’s children in the critical early years.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 13, 2013