The Frontier Centre for Public Policy released a backgrounder on the Manitoba government’s decision last year to put a moratorium on any school closures in the province. With almost a year in the rear-view mirror now, Frontier research associate and Manitoba teacher Michael Zwaagstra looks at the provincial government’s decision and finds the following:
• Manitoba’s student population has declined steadily over the last few decades. In 1970, there were approximately 247,000 kindergarten to grade 12 students and that number decreased to about 180,000 by 2008 – a 27 per cent decline.
• Out of the 684 public schools in Manitoba, 249 had fewer than 150 students in September 2007.
• In 2008, the Manitoba NDP government enacted a moratorium on school closures in the province, but there are a number of significant problems with this moratorium.
o It fails to take into account the variety of circumstances faced by school divisions across the province.
o The quality of education received by many students will continue to suffer.
o The moratorium scuttles sensible school-closure plans that would be of great benefit to students.
• Surveys indicate that Manitobans are prepared to accept school closures when declining student numbers make them necessary.
Zwaagstra identifies the 2008 policy as mistaken and notes that “Instead of attempting to micromanage schools by implementing a misguided school-closure moratorium, the provincial government should make it easier for parents to send their children to the schools of their choice.”
Zwaagstra points out that by letting local school boards close schools that face declining enrolments due to demographic changes or parental choice, underperforming schools will have to change their focus or face closure. By letting student numbers and parental choice determine which schools expand and which close, the government will encourage educational excellence in Manitoba.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy study, Manitoba’s School-Closure Moratorium One Year Later, can be found here
For more information, contact the study author at:
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