New K-12 funding model to replace education property tax coming in 2 years: Manitoba government

Manitoba plans to have a different way to pay for kindergarten to Grade 12 education within the next two years.

The provincial government announced Thursday it is selecting a consultation team to guide development of a new funding model.

The new formula is expected to be in place for fall 2023, the province says.

Manitoba currently relies on education property taxes to cover the bill — a system that has been denounced as inequitable, since school divisions with a larger business base get a bigger pool of money.

The Progressive Conservative government has vowed to gradually eliminate that tax entirely and fund the school system through other means.

The government initially said phasing out the levy could take up to 10 years, but moved ahead aggressively toward that target, with its most recent budget promising a 25 per cent cut to the tax this year and another 25 per cent next year.

Tax cut may be delayed

During last month’s Progressive Conservative leadership campaign, now-Premier Heather Stefanson told the Winnipeg Free Press if elected, she would likely delay the second 25 per cent cut planned for next year. Her office said on Thursday no decision has been made.

In its news release Thursday, the government said it will develop a new funding model that addresses the longstanding inequity concerns. 

“We need to simplify funding to schools, better support specialized learning needs and create predictability in funding,” Education Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement.

The government is promising a “stable, predictable and phased implementation plan” to transition from the existing funding formula to a new model that doesn’t include the education portion of property taxes.

The consultation team will be made up of government officials and representatives from a number of organizations, including First Nations schools, independent schools, school superintendents, municipal organizations and parent councils.

The province expects consultations to begin next January and the project completed by February 2023, with the new model in place for the 2023-24 school year.

Stefanson has pledged some form of education reform as premier, even though her government withdrew the controversial Bill 64, which included a recommendation to dissolve elected school boards.

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