Questions and Answers

Manitoba Education announced significant changes to the education system in Manitoba. Better Education Starts Today: Putting Students First has been developed in response to the Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education, as well as the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Better Education Starts Today strategy is our government’s vision and set of priority actions needed to ensure we are putting Manitoba students first. The vision is for all Manitoba students to succeed, no matter where they live, their background, or their individual circumstances.

General Questions

The Commission’ report, Our Children’s Success: Manitoba’s Future can be found at https://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/educationreview/docs/public-discussion-paper.pdf

In 2019, our government committed to reviewing and renewing our education system through the work of the K-12 Commission. The Commission undertook one of the largest expert stakeholder consultations in Manitoba history that led to critical insights and direction on shaping a modern education system for tomorrow. Between January 2019 and March 2020, $635,000 was spent for the Commission to consult broadly with Manitoban’s and conduct its work.

No. There is a body of evidence that suggests the current system is not working for everyone. Manitoba is among the highest spending per student, yet they are lagging behind their peers in other provinces in key areas like reading and math. The complexity of our system has resulted in varying degrees of inequity for our students across Manitoba including variation in standards and different access to programming and learning options being dependent on where you live.

COVID-19 has shown us that there is great opportunity to embrace change, innovate and engage people in improving education in Manitoba.

Yes. We are taking what we heard and learned in the last year to make bold enhancements toward a modern education system.

We are shifting to a classroom-focused education system where learning and achievement come first. We are going to:

  • Redirect resources to classrooms where you told us supports are needed most.
  • Listen to parents and give them a voice in decision-making at the local school level.
  • Listen and work with students more to understand what they need to be successful.
  • Support educators through enhanced professional learning so they can provide the best classroom experience possible.

Yes. Our vision is that Manitoba students will succeed, no matter where they live, their background, or their individual circumstances. We will:

  • Improve student performance – Manitoba students will move up in national and international rankings
  • Reduce administration costs and redirect resources to the classroom – where they are needed most
  • Simplify governance and streamline administration to put students first
  • Ensure fair and sustainable funding to reduce disparities between regions

The goal is to build an innovative, responsive and unified provincial education system that is accountable for results, student-centred, parent-friendly, and classroom-focused. We are committed to making Manitoba the most improved education system in Canada.

No. There will be no major disruptions to the “everyday life” in the classroom.

For students:

  • No immediate changes in their everyday school life
  • Increased emphasis on mental health and well-being
  • Better preparation for whatever path they choose; post-secondary, trades, workforce, entrepreneurship

For parents:

  • Their children will go to same school
  • No extra expense
  • New School Community Councils will provide more meaningful parent engagement
  • Better prepare students to compete in a global community

For teachers:

  • No staffing impacts at the school level as a result of these changes
  • Bargaining will change from school divisions to province-wide to allow teachers to teach
  • Professional standards to deliver high-quality learning outcomes

No. This is a major education reform in all areas of the system. Work will begin shortly for some initiatives and others that require additional engagement and planning will take time to implement. The new administrative and governance model will be implemented by July 1, 2022 and a new funding model that distributes resources more equitability across regions and schools will be implemented by 2023.

Governance and Administration

Yes. We will create a unified provincial system that eliminates inequities while responding to local needs by:

  • building a new provincial governance model that eliminates duplication and regional disparities. It will be coordinated, accountable, cost-effective and transparent to Manitobans
  • streamlining administration and creating savings with a single Provincial Education Authority
  • giving all parents a voice through the new School Community Councils and the new Provincial Advisory Council on Education; and
  • consolidating 37 school divisions into 15 regions (plus DSFM).

Information on Bill 64 can be found at: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/42-3/pdf/b064.pdf. The explanatory note provides a good overview of its contents.

Additionally, a PowerPoint slide deck outlining the governance structure and other key changes to the system is available at: https://manitoba.ca/asset_library/en/proactive/2020_2021/bill-64-overview.pdf.

No. The Provincial Education Authority will be a separate government agency, established to oversee K to 12 education across 15 regional catchment areas (regions) throughout Manitoba, along with a consolidation of shared services such as procurement, IT and workforce planning—saving money that will be reinvested directly into classrooms.

The Provincial Education Authority Board will report to the Minister and include at least two elected parent representatives appointed by the Minister from the Provincial Advisory Council on Education (PACE).

The Provincial Advisory Council on Education (PACE) will be established to advise the Minister of Education and to make recommendations about any matters relating to the public education system, including:

  • the needs of students, schools and communities
  • the effectiveness of educational programming
  • student achievement of learning outcomes

The PACE will be comprised of 16 members, one parent representative from each Regional Catchment Area elected from among the School Community Council executives, and one trustee representative from the DSFM. PACE members will serve a four-year term.

A CEO will be recruited for the position. Directors of Education and their admin teams will delivery K-12 education out of 15 regions. The composition of the regional teams and the shared services within the Authority have not yet been determined. The full structure will be designed over the coming months as part of our engagement with key stakeholders.

Bill 64, The Education Modernization Act establishes the Authority as a new government entity. The Authority will have a board of 6 to 11 members, a majority of whom must be community board members, and a minimum of two parents selected from the Provincial Advisory Council on Education (PACE).

When appointing a community board member, the Lieutenant Governor in Council will give consideration to the following:

  • A candidate’s knowledge, skills and expertise in the areas relevant to the needs of the board.
  • That the board as a whole represents a sufficient range of expertise and experience to carry out its responsibilities effectively.
  • That the board as a whole represents the diversity of the people of Manitoba and the varied talents, perspectives and ideas of people with different backgrounds and experiences.

Bill 64 is currently under consideration and will be subject to the legislative process. When passed, the bill will be phased-in, with full implementation expected to be complete by July 1, 2022. No changes will come into effect during the 2020/2021 school year.

Government will share further information on how individuals can apply for appointment to the Provincial Education Authority Board once the Bill passes. For now those interested can visit the Agencies, Boards and Commissions website at https://www.gov.mb.ca/government/abc/index.html for an overview of the application and nomination process used in Manitoba.

No. The Commission authentically engaged with thousands of Manitoban’s and provided its best advice based on what they heard and on research and best practices. The Better Education Starts Today, is also informed from key learnings through the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the importance of operating as a provincial system to ensure there are no winners or losers when it comes to access and opportunities, whether we are in a pandemic or not.

Unifying school divisions goes a long way in reducing some of the inequities that exist across the province and build provincial consistency in the options and opportunities for all students, regardless of where they live.

Regional Catchment Areas (otherwise referred to as regions) are administrative areas for the delivery of K-12 education across Manitoba. Students have a right to receive an education within the region for which they are a Resident Student. There will be 15 new regions defined by geographic boundaries, to facilitate the management of student enrolment, transportation and other administrative functions.

Each region will be overseen by a Director of Education who is appointed by the Provincial Education Authority board. The Directors of Education and their senior admin teams will work with the schools and School Community Councils in their regions to ensure the effective functioning of schools.

Yes. The regions are establish in regulation by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The regulation can be changed through government’s established process to amend regulations.

Yes, Upon the proclamation of The Education Act on July 1, 2022, all current school boards (except for the francophone school board) will be dissolved and their members discontinued.

The Division Scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM) will continue to maintain its governance structure to ensure francophone minority language and cultural rights are properly protected.

Government recognizes and respects that the French language is a vital component to Manitoba’s francophone community and is committed to meeting its obligations under the Charter to protect and promote the minority language rights.

We expect there could be savings of upwards of $10 million.

We are taking a different approach than other jurisdictions, aligning the system as whole versus individual pieces. This is the most extensive education transformation to be undertaken in Canada and we are confident that changes will result in a consistent, aligned and coordinated system that will result in resources being redirected to classrooms, where they are needed the most.

Recommendations to amalgamate were about creating equity. This approach goes further than amalgamation by creating a whole new system where we have separated education administration and leadership into distinct roles to eliminate duplication, competition and disparities and to create a modern system for today’s students.

The current Emergency Order re: Temporary Suspension of Local Government Provisions, which is in place until July 31, 2021, allows for the Senior Elections Official to consider public health and safety when scheduling a trustee by-election. This means that school divisions continue to be able to postpone by-elections for public health and safety reasons. Otherwise, school divisions may proceed with holding a by-election.

No. There will be no major disruptions to the everyday life in the classroom. No schools will be closed as a result of combining existing school divisions into regions.

These changes are not about closing schools, it’s about providing a better classroom-focused education system for students. We also committed to building 20 new schools over 10 years and a schedule to meet that promise. The criteria for school closures remain the same as that set out in the current Public Schools Act.

For employees of school divisions other than the DSFM, once the Provincial Education Authority is established it becomes the employer, and will be responsible for administering the existing collective agreements in place.

Simplifying governance and administration will save at least $40 million dollars that will be redirected to classroom-level supports where it is needed the most. These savings will be generated from changing the school board/trustee model, moving to shared services for IT, procurement and capital planning, as well as the realignment from 37 divisions to 15 regions. All savings that result from changes will be shifted to classrooms. School level positions are not impacted by these changes.

Initially, $5,000,000 is budgeted to support the priority actions in the strategy.

Independent schools and home school arrangements are recognized as important in providing parents and students with choice in education. Bill 64 has formalized and clarified requirements for independent schools and homeschools. For example, both funded and non-funded independent schools will need to be registered under the new act, which includes becoming incorporated under The Corporations Act and complying with local and provincial health and safety standards, among other requirements.

Teachers and Principals

Teachers can expect more resources directed to classroom-level supports and increased professional learning and development. They have told us they need these supports to meet the needs of their students and be their best in their classrooms. There is a set of priority actions focused on teacher excellence and support.

Yes. This requirement has not changed from the Public Schools Act.

Principals and vice-principals will no longer be in the teacher bargaining unit (Bill 64, Schedule C). This will bring our education system in line with most other employer/employee relationships where managers form their own bargaining unit separate from their staff or are non-unionized. This approach

  • removes real or perceived conflicts of interest that currently exist with management and employees in the same bargaining unit
  • empowers principals and vice-principals to lead and support their teacher teams
  • supports principals’ and vice-principals’ ability to drive change to improve student outcomes
  • enhances principals’ and vice-principals’ ability to provide better and more effective performance appraisals

While principals and vice-principals are being moved out of the teacher bargaining unit, the Labour Board will determine matters of scope and who will still be included within the teacher bargaining unit. Those who are out of scope may seek alternative options regarding representation.

No. Principals will continue to be hired through a competitive process. Directors of Education or their designate will hire any upcoming principal positions across the 15 regions. Existing principal appointments are not directly affected by these changes.

Similar to the current system, there will be an escalation approach to raising concerns. In the new governance system parents will continue to bring concerns to the school principal first. If the concern is not resolved, parents may contact the Director of Education for the region. Ultimately, the Authority board may hear the complaint. Under the new system parents will have the additional avenue of making complaints to the Manitoba Ombudsman.

Parents and School Community Councils

No. Education administration and leadership are being separated into distinct roles. The regions and DSFM will be responsible to deliver K-12 education, engage parents and report on student achievement and address gaps. The Provincial Education Authority will be responsible for collective bargaining, human resources, information technology, remote learning, procurement and maintenance.

The new governance model includes an enhanced role for parents to be engaged through the establishment of School Community Councils. These councils are required for every school and will be supported by a Parental Engagement Officer, who will facilitate a stronger level of engagement between parents and school leaders.

The new legislation provides the opportunity for parents to provide input into a broader scope of matters relating to their children’s education than is currently available. In addition, the Provincial Advisory Council on Education provides parents with a formalized method of engagement with the minister of education. In addition, under the new structure, avenues of recourse regarding complaints will include the process under the Manitoba Ombudsman.

With the establishment of School Community Councils at every school, every parent of a student at the school will become a member of the council and may vote for the council executive. The role of the School Community Council will be to advise the school principal about school matters. At least once every three months, each representative of the schools in a region Area will meet with the Director of Education for the area to discuss school matters. The new Provincial Advisory Council on Education will be comprised of one elected representative from each School Community Council, this includes a representative from every rural community school across Manitoba.

The role of the School Community Council is to advise the school principal on school matters, including the needs of the community it serves and strategies for improving student achievement and wellbeing. They may also be involved in:

  • Assessing the effectiveness of educational programming at the school
  • Analyzing student achievement learning outcomes and determining areas for improvement
  • The need to evaluate the performance of any person employed at the school
  • Proposes capital construction projects at the school site, the proposed annual budget and monthly expenditures
  • Change in school programs and activities
  • Short and long term priorities for the school at set out in the school plan
  • Transportation of students
  • The use of suspension and expulsions as disciplinary tools at the school
  • The policies implemented at the school
  • Encouraging the involvement of parents at the school

Consultation is underway to better understand the role the councils can and should play and the role of parents.

As the employing authority, Directors of Education or their designate will be responsible for human resource decisions and processes. The Act outlines that School Community Councils are to advise the principal on school matters, but the School Community Councils are not involved in the hiring of principals or other staff. Parents and/or the Council may be asked for input into the hiring processes.

The Manitoba government will be consulting with parents, caregivers, community members and stakeholders on these and many other questions related to the School Community Councils. We know how busy parents are and want to find new ways to engage with them that respects their time and commitments. We want to ensure that they are well supported and can meaningfully contribute to their local school community.

Bill 64 does allow one School Community Council to serve two or more schools.

Yes. All parents and caregivers of a school community will be members of the School Community Council and they will elect an executive to work with the principal on matters impacting the school community. This will require a renewed emphasis on engaging parents and communities so that they are reflective of the diversity of schools. This will require new approaches to engagement and being intentional about diversity and inclusion.

Planning will include a review of the resources required to support School Community Councils and to facilitate meaningful parent engagement to ensure local school community needs are met.

No. The decision on how to engage with parents will be at the discretion of the independent school.

This may depend on the size of the school. A parent engagement officer designated by the school principal and/or the region will be assigned to each school.

Yes. It is understood that School Community Councils will require resources to fulfill their role and we will be consulting with parents and caregivers, schools and communities inform decisions around financial support needed for this work.

Student Programming and Supports

The K-12 Commission Report highlighted the need to close the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. We will work toward this goal by implementing an Indigenous Inclusion Strategy in partnership with the Indigenous Inclusion Directorate Advisory Council. We will also create an Elders and Knowledge Keepers in Schools Initiative to support student and teacher learning and promote Indigenous worldviews in curriculum and programs, in partnership with Indigenous educators, parents and community members.

Existing agreements, including any obligations or arrangements entered into by school divisions are continued under the Provincial Education Authority. Regions will continue to be able to enter into agreements with First Nations to share or provide services, or make arrangements for the delivery of education.

To support students and meet the diverse needs across the province, including rural communities, our strategy outlines a series of actions that when implemented together, will focus on student success, enhancing the role of parents, and creating system efficiencies. We will:

  • develop a new provincial funding model that is fair, equitable, transparent and sustainable;
  • undertake provincial planning for education which to improve equity in our system;
  • focus on attracting and retaining professionals who both work and live in rural and northern regions as a priority and will explore further incentives and recruitment strategies; and
  • expand apprenticeship and other work-experience programming for students in rural and remote communities.

Yes. COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of student-specific planning and the need to ensure students with special learning needs are well understood. Improving the system will mean providing supports that are individualized with reduced wait times for students with special needs. The 2021 provincial budget included a $5.5 million increase in special needs funding.

A new Advisory Council on Inclusive Education will be established to inform this important work going forward. The council will focus on: ensuring timely access to assessment, learning supports and clinical services for students with special needs; implementing a standardized reporting mechanism aligned with the provincial report card; and reviewing investments and professional learning needs to enhance classroom supports.

Yes. Education will be implementing a new K-12 Mental Health and Addictions Curriculum to increase mental health knowledge and awareness for both students and school staff and will reduce stigma associated with mental health issues.

Education will also collaborate with partner departments such as the Department of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery to build an integrated and accessible system of support and services for student mental health. For a current list of mental health, wellness and recovery services please go to: https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/mh/.

Yes. Experiences from COVID-19 show us that more work on digital literacy, connectivity and accessible technologies are needed to bridge the digital divide. While many schools and school divisions were already modernizing and integrating technology in innovative ways prior to COVID-19, not all schools were equally ready. Some faced challenges in adapting to remote learning, including students and staff alike.

As remote learning can be a tool to respond to individual learning needs and enhance access to programming, more students need to have access to provincial online, distance and remote learning platforms. Manitoba will enhance the implementation of the Provincial Remote Learning Framework and principles to guide the ongoing development of remote learning and teaching post-pandemic and ensure the system is prepared to adapt for any future disruptions in our education system. Nearly $4 million was included in budget 2021 to support a provincial virtual learning strategy, including an online high school for Grades 9 to 12 and continuing supports for remote learning for K to 8.

Curriculum and Assessment

A new provincial curriculum framework will be developed as the current framework dates back to 1995. The framework will set out the vision, underpinning philosophy, competencies (interrelated set of attitudes, skills, knowledge and values that are transferable across areas of learning and into life), and foundations of what students should be learning across the curricula.

A better understanding of the relationships between different areas of learning will benefit students. Instead of silos of knowledge and skills, they will gain transferable competencies that may be used differently in different disciplines and together develop a flexible mind that can be applied in different situations, both in and out of school.

Bill 64 formalizes what was previously a department policy on “sensitive content”, reinforces what happens in practice and supports parental choice relating to their child’s education. The proposed legislation contains a requirement for the PEA to have a policy that requires schools to notify parents when physical/health education curriculum is being delivered that deals primarily and explicitly with human sexuality, substance use and personal safety. If a parent elects to exclude their child from that portion of the course, the legislation requires that the student receive instruction in the potentially sensitive content by way of alternate delivery.

To further support diversity and inclusion, the proposed legislation requires the Provincial Education Authority to have a Respect for Human Diversity policy that accommodates student activities including “gay-straight alliance” or any other activities that promote a safe and inclusive environment.

The specific move of these tests from Grade 12 to Grade 10 is to support students early in their high school path. This will allow teachers and students to address areas of growth together through grades 11 and 12.

The data gathered from these assessments and other classroom-based assessments can be used to inform the allocation of school resources, as school, regional and provincial level.

Manitoba Education will be offering professional development to support teachers in continuing to develop their skills to design and implement appropriate assessments for, as, and of learning, evaluate assessment data, provide feedback to students that helps identify next steps, and develop learning experiences that address needs and offer new challenges.

A shift to new provincial summative assessments in early and middle years is one piece of a broader, holistic assessment plan. A variety of assessments are used throughout the school year to ensure that we are valuing many ways of knowing. Every learner is unique and information about their growth is gathered through conversations, observations, and other interactions in the classroom, portfolios, personal reflection and self-assessments.

Summative assessments at the end of the year will provide pertinent information about each student’s knowledge and skills in relation to learning outcomes as set out in the provincial curricula, and will help to improve student learning by identifying student strengths and needs that can be addressed in subsequent years.

Yes. Publishing school-level reports is important for school planning purposes. Local school communities, including parents and caregivers, deserve to understand how their school is doing with respect to student learning and outcomes. Sharing results allows schools, regions, and the province to highlight programs and practices that are creating positive improvements, to acknowledge the good work of teachers and schools and for the public to have a better understanding of the modern school experience.

School reports will help School Community Councils, families and communities better understand how their local school is performing by increasing transparency and facilitating dialogue and partnerships between the school and community.

Precautions will be taken to protect individual privacy, such as suppressing information when minimum thresholds are not met. Efforts will be made to reduce comparisons across schools in how data is shared.

Engagement

Yes. To kick-off planning towards a full transformation roadmap by September 2021, we are taking immediate action to:

  • Consult with parents and existing advisory councils on the role parents can and should play in general, and on the School Community Councils specifically. This will begin after spring break and continue until at least the end of June to ensure we connect with as many Manitoban parents as possible.
  • Consult with the school community and education stakeholders on the development of a longer-term strategy for: professional practice standards, options for a regulatory body, review of professional learning, a new school leadership framework, a recruitment and retention strategy for increasing Indigenous and French language teachers, as well as expanding clinicians in rural and northern communities.
  • Start work on large-scale initiatives such as a new assessment framework, a funding model review and a new K-12 Curriculum Development Framework.

The Better Education Starts Today (BEST) roadmap will be released by September 2021. To inform the development of the roadmap, consultations with parents, school communities and other education stakeholders will occur starting in April. There will also be calls for proposals for larger-scale initiatives, such as curriculum implementation and developing a new funding model. For the most up-to-date information on consultations and other strategy-related work, please visit: https://bettereducationmb.ca/

The Better Education Starts Today website at https://bettereducationmb.ca/ will be updated regularly as the work unfolds and the transformation roadmap is developed. A transformation dashboard will be available to report on the progress of the changes and ensure timely access to information as implementation proceeds.

Financial Implications

No. Manitoba is committed to maintaining investments in education, but resources will be directed based on need – not who has the ability to raise the most property tax revenue. We will increase education funding by over $1.6 billion over the next four years and all savings resulting from changes and system efficiencies will be shifted to classrooms – where we know the support is needed most.

The 2021 provincial budget included a Funding of School increase of 1.56 percent, inclusive of a $5.5 million increase in special needs funding with an additional $23 million for the Property Tax Offset Grant.

To eliminate inequities resulting from funding imbalances, we will build and implement a new funding model that is fair, transparent and sustainable to help all students thrive.

No. The province is on track to fulfill its 20 New Schools Guarantee with six schools already open, two expected to go to tender in the spring of 2021 and four beginning design work in 2021/22. The remaining eight schools are expected to be designed and completed ahead of the original 10-year commitment.

No. This is about ensuring there are more resources for our classrooms, and moving away from our top-heavy bureaucracy that is duplicated multiple times across Manitoba. Our system is not working well for all students.

We will work in partnership with our education stakeholders to develop a system that will focus on continuous improvement. We will work with school administrators to publish annual school improvement plans focused on student achievement and well-being, developed by the principal with the school community. We will have accountability agreements with the Provincial Educational Authority and DSFM.