Manitoba Sees Fewer Students More Teachers

Worth A Look, Education, Frontier Centre

MANITOBA’S public schools have added teachers while enrolment has steadily declined, a new Statistics Canada report shows.

With an average teacher salary of $61,982, the fourth-highest in Canada as of three years ago, Manitoba was second only to Newfoundland in spending per student on teachers’ salaries.

The report on provincial and territorial spending between the 1997-1998 and 2003-2004 school years shows Manitoba spent $4,162 per student on teacher salaries in the 2003-04 school year — compared to a national average of $3,838 per student.

Education Minister Peter Bjornson, Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Brian Ardern and opposition education critic Heather Stefanson (PC-Tuxedo) were not available for comment yesterday.

But the Statistics Canada data show that Manitoba has added educators — defined as anyone in the school system who requires a teaching certificate — while enrolment has dropped.

The number of full-time-equivalent educators increased by 141 during the seven school years studied by Statistics Canada, while the number of students in the public school system fell by 6,480.

Meanwhile, the average teacher’s salary of $61,982 in Manitoba by the spring of 2004 was fourth-highest in Canada, trailing only Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

One result of increasing the number of teachers while enrolment fell was that the per-pupil ratio between students and educators fell from 15.5 in the fall of 1997 to 14.9 in the spring of 2004.

Another result was that the $7,815 in operating costs that Manitoba spent in 2003-2004 was second only to Alberta’s per-pupil spending.

“School divisions are hanging onto teachers, and they’re reducing class sizes in Manitoba,” Carolyn Duhamel, executive director of the Manitoba Association of School Trustees, said yesterday.

At the MTS convention in May, union vice-president Pat Isaak told teachers MTS membership had remained stable despite the ongoing decline in student enrolment.

Duhamel said much of the Statistics Canada data can be confusing, because it is unclear how each province reports its spending.

For instance, Manitoba spent more than any province in 2003-2004 on students from all sources — $9,003 a head — but that figure includes capital grants, payments to the teachers’ pension fund, operation of the provincial education department and debt servicing on capital borrowing.

“We really don’t know what the other provinces put into theirs,” Duhamel said.

In another part of the report, Statistics Canada reports that teachers’ remuneration makes up 53.3 per cent of Manitoba’s public education costs, a percentage that is the fourth highest in Canada.

“The figure we’ve always heard is in the 65 per cent range” of actual operating costs, excluding capital, pensions and other costs of running the system, Duhamel said.

The full Statistics Canada report is available at: