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AMALGAMATION UPDATE NOV 2003

AMALGAMATION LETTER APRIL 25, 2002

AMALGAMATION REVIEW April 12, 2002

April 25, 2002 PRESS RELEASE

Superintendent/CEO for River East Transcona School Division

The partner Boards of Transcona-Springfield and River East School Divisions are pleased to announce their intentions to appoint John Carlyle as the Superintendent/CEO of the new division of River East Transcona School Division, effective July 1, 2002.  The Province of Manitoba has said it will bring into being by July 1, 2002, the legislation necessary to establish the new division and to give the Interim Board the powers to conduct school division business leading up to Board elections October 23, 2002.  The partner Boards of River East and Transcona-Springfield will be working with Mr. Carlyle to establish an administrative team that fairly represents both current divisions and supports outstanding education in River East Transcona School Division.

Gail Scheer, Chair
River East School Division No. 9

Mary Andree, Chair
Transcona-Springfield School Division No. 12

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DECEMBER 17,2001 SPRIN GFIELD PARENTS UP IN ARMS OVER MERGER

DECEMBER 6,2001 AMALGAMATION COSTS TO GO UP

DECEMBER 6,2001 SCHOOL DIVISION MERGERS

NOVEMBER 9,2001 CUPE MANITOBA NEWS RELEASE

NOVEMBER 8,2001 PROVINCE MOVES TO MODERNIZE SCHOOL DIVISION BOUNDARIES

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Minister of Education Drew Caldwell speech to the delegates at the CUPE School Division Sector Conference October 27,2001 at the Keystone Centre, Brandon Manitoba

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Minister of Education Drew Caldwell answering questions about School Division transportation from Irene Bernard bus driver and president of CUPE Local 1112 Fort Garry School Division. The Minister indicated that the government will respect current collective aggreements and the collective bargaining process. He indicated that one single bus authority was not currently under review, but that he would seriously entertain proposals from CUPE MANITOBA.

Costs will likely go up, says trustees association president
School mergers draw criticism
Thu, Dec 6, 2001
By Nick Martin
'Vindictive' provincial funding decisions and an edict that bans school closings for four years have stirred up school trustees already hard-pressed to meet tight deadlines for forced amalgamation of school divisions. There is no evidence that the mergers imposed by Education Minister Drew Caldwell will save money -- in fact, costs will likely go up, Manitoba Association of School Trustees (MAST) president Don Dunnigan said yesterday. "Local taxpayers are going to bear the full burden. That stinks," Dunnigan said at the opening of a three-day MAST professional development conference. Trustees are irked that Caldwell will provide grants to cover the administrative costs of amalgamation of $50 per student only to a handful of rural divisions that chose to merge voluntarily. Had River East, for instance, chosen voluntary merger, it would have qualified for close to $700,000 in provincial funding. Education Minister Drew Caldwell yesterday outlined more deadlines for the imposition of new school division boundaries next fall:
Jan. 15, 2002: announce provincial funding for the 2002-2003 school year March 1, 2002: existing divisions must have held extensive public consultation and chosen a ward system for the new division, decided on the number of trustees in each ward up to a maximum school board of nine trustees, and also must have agreed on the name of the new division. The province will appoint an arbitrator should any key decisions still be up in the air. March 15, 2002: school boards will set budgets based on their existing divisions, which will be combined after the merger has taken place next fall. July 1, 2002: current school boards in affected divisions will cease to exist. An interim board will take control of the areas to be merged in the fall. There is no limit on the existing trustees who can sit on the interim board, but any trustee not appointed to that interim board will leave office June 30. Oct. 23, 2002: election of trustees for the new divisions, which will come into existence the following day. "It's inequity," Dunnigan said. "I believe it wasn't meant to be vindictive, but it's coming across that way." Caldwell was not available yesterday, but a spokesman said the province will consider some funding if divisions can prove that the amalgamation process has cost local taxpayers. Caldwell has claimed that reducing 54 school boards to 37 will save $10 million over three years, but Dunnigan said he has yet to see the proof. "Buyouts (of superfluous superintendents and secretary-treasurers) are going to be expensive," he said.
Merged divisions may see costly duplicate programs offered in two schools, but Caldwell has banned closing schools until 2005, Dunnigan said. Guest speaker Lawrence Tymko, former executive director of the Alberta Schools Boards Association, said closing smaller schools was one of the first moves boards made after Alberta imposed amalgamations in the late 1990s. "Students were transported to larger schools that offered a wider range of programs." St. Boniface trustee Laura Reimer cited the closings embargo and predicted that the forced merger with St. Vital would produce "some pretty staggering costs for our blended school divisions." River East trustee Rod Giesbrecht said talks with the urban portion of Transcona-Springfield have made little progress because that division is also discussing the merger of its rural area with Agassiz, Whiteshell and Pine Falls. Tymko noted that he has not seen a single amalgamation in Alberta in which employees ended up accepting the lower package of wages and benefits previously paid to merging bargaining units. Transcona teachers are paid about $1,500 more a year than teachers in River East, Giesbrecht said. "We anticipate at least $2 million just to blend the contracts. That's before any (negotiated) increases." Tymko said trustees of the merging divisions should invite their senior administrators to apply for the top jobs in the divisions to be formed next fall, but should limit applications to those already on the payroll. The unsuccessful applicants will have to be bought out, he said. nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Spend surplus before merger, maverick trustee urges board
Tue, Nov 27, 2001
By Nick Martin
MAVERICK Transcona-Springfield trustee Jamie Boychuk urged his school board yesterday to spend its $2-million surplus on technology and tax cuts before forced amalgamation sends some of that money to deficit-plagued Agassiz School Division. "We'd be able to do, easily, a zero tax increase," Boychuk said, adding, "We do (also) have a little bit of catch-up in technology to do." The urban portion of Transcona is joining the larger River East School Division, which has its own $800,000 surplus, while rural Springfield will be merged next fall with Agassiz and the small Whiteshell and Pine Falls school districts. Agassiz is paying off a $1.2 million deficit run up in 1998-99, and made huge spending cuts to classrooms to avoid having a second deficit year in 1999-2000. Trustees in several divisions facing forced mergers said yesterday that Education Minister Drew Caldwell has told them not to clean out their surpluses without extensive consultation with their prospective partners. But in St. Boniface and St. Vital, and Fort Garry and Assiniboine South, reserve funds were already all but emptied in recent years to hold down tax increases. Boychuk said that consultation does not mean that River East and Agassiz call the shots. "If I had the flexibility, I'd give it back to the taxpayers for sure" in the March 15 budget, he said. Caldwell said yesterday he won't impose a freeze on surpluses, but told trustees to both talk to their future partners and to consider how holding onto the money would best serve students' long-term interests. "We're expecting the boards are going to behave and act responsibly," he said in an interview. "The public should be monitoring these things very closely." Caldwell said that if merging boards have not worked out new ward boundaries and the new divisions' political structures by March 1, they'll have to pay for an arbitrator out of local taxes because he won't step in to resolves impasses.
Transcona-Springfield board chairwoman Mary Andree said talks are just getting under way on dividing up the division's assets. "I don't look at it as our surplus or their surplus. We don't want to nickel and dime this," Andree said. Last week, secretary-treasurer Laird Long resigned to go to a job in the private sector,she said.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Editorial - Break union grip
Sat, Nov 24, 2001
CANADIANS have known for some time that the federal NDP does not reflect the views of ordinary voters. That message is front and centre at the party's national convention at the Winnipeg Convention Centre this weekend. Delegates are being offered opportunities to change that. Those interested ought to look closely at a resolution that would start the process by allowing each party member to vote for its leader. Member of Parliament Peter Stoffer is tired of seeing his party kowtowing to the special interest groups, specifically union leadership. Giving special status to niche interests is risky, because such groups can yield disproportionate and formidable power. As a block, labour representatives hold more than a third (741) of the delegates and, therefore, votes on the floor. Those votes elect the party leader, its executive and control which concerns translate into policy. Good luck to any resolution or leadership candidate that does not reflect the interests of organized labour, or more accurately, the leadership of that brotherhood. Mr. Soffer's resolution, expected to be heard late today, is just such a proposal. It asks the national party to follow the lead of some provincial NDP and adopt a one-member, one-vote system to loosen the union chockhold. The last federal election highlighted the fact the NDP is sorely out of touch with the majority of ordinary Canadians. The special status accorded to unions and their leaders is symptomatic of the NDP's malaise. Union leaders are no closer to reflecting the views of their members than is the NDP to reflecting the values and concerns of workers and ordinary Canadians. Canadians need a voice in Parliament that does not come from the right or centre-right. If the NDP really wants to reflect the concerns of ordinary Canadians, it will have to invite those people into the party. Giving each member a vote is not a perfect solution, nor does it guarantee a wider representation, but it would begin to wrest power from a select few.

Merger a 'Net' gain for school division Red River students will finally get wired
Mon, Nov 19, 2001
By Nick Martin
THANKS to amalgamation, kids in Saint-Pierre-Jolys and Saint-Malo will finally get wired into the Internet, Red River School Division board chair Ron Vinet said. The tiny division is merging with Morris-Macdonald School Division, which will free up enough savings in administrative costs that Red River can get serious about catching up with the technological advantages of students in the city, Vinet said. His division and ratepayers have no qualms about amalgamation despite MMSD's $4 million adult education funding scandal, Vinet said. Education Minister Drew Caldwell "has assured us Red River ratepayers would not be held responsible" for help repaying that debt, Vinet said.
Red River's superintendent has retired, and Morris-Macdonald is running the division through a management contract. "We were too small, and we had to do something to cut costs," said Vinet, whose division has about 566 students in only five schools. The 70 students in Letellier Immersion School will not be part of the merger. Their community has instead opted to move into a new division to the east formed by Rhineland, Boundary and Sprague school divisions. Vinet estimated that sharing MMSD's administrative services will save substantial amounts of money. "We think we'll be able to provide high-speed Internet in our schools, and putting students on the same playing field as kids in the city." Recently, Caldwell fired the Morris-Macdonald school board and secretary-treasurer Denis Lemay. He had given MMSD 30 days to implement recommendations in provincial auditor Jon Singleton's damning report of deliberately inflated enrolment figures in adult learning centres Morris-Macdonald operated outside its borders. Deputy education minister Ben Levin said this week that there has been no decision reached how quickly Morris-Macdonald will have to repay the province up to $4 million in per-student grants and staff recruiting bonuses. However, Levin said, Morris-Macdonald and Red River will not have to harmonize their mill rates for three years after formal amalgamation next October. Morris-Macdonald has a $1 million surplus -- which is expected to go straight to the provincial treasury -- and one of the province's lowest mill rates, thanks largely to the profits it made from running adult education centres. The division collects about $3.6 million a year in local school taxes. Repaying up to another $3 million over three years would increase school taxes by 27.8 per cent, which would still leave MMSD slightly below the average provincial mill rate, and would cost the owners of a home assessed at $100,000 an additional $196.41 a year.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

MTS views move as step forward
Posted: Nov. 15, 2001
Reducing the number of school divisions to 37 from 54 is a step toward improving equity for Manitoba's students, teachers and taxpayers according to Manitoba Teachers' Society President, Jan Speelman. "The Society has supported the idea of new school division boundaries for more than two decades now," says Speelman. "We're pleased to see this government had the courage to tackle the issue in their announcement today." "Revising boundaries is not about saving money," says Speelman. "It's about creating economies of scale so that divisions can offer a fuller range of programs and services for students. If there are savings to be had, they will be a side benefit."Speelman says the Society's priorities for new school division boundaries are:
1. Improving students' access to programs and services
The Society believes every child deserves a fair chance at getting programs to meet their learning needs. And it shouldn't matter where they live in Manitoba. Amalgamations should help school divisions give students more of what they need.
2. Providing teachers with necessary resources and supports
Teachers in many divisions can't get the resources and supports they need, simply because their divisions are too small. New boundaries should allow the economies of scale that would allow teachers to get more of the resources they need.
3. Minimizing differences in rates for taxpayers
Manitobans don't need 54 different rates of local school board taxes. Having 37 divisions should help ease some of the disparities. The Society would like to see the government move toward one uniform school tax rate levied by the province, not by the local school board. Teachers are pleased to see a three-year moratorium on school closures. "If anything, we believe having larger school divisions should help make smaller public schools more viable," says Speelman.

Students protest amalgamation Ethelbert students fear effect on school
Wed, Nov 14, 2001
By Federico Barahona
HIGH school students from the Duck Mountain School Division are upset with the province's amalgamation plans, which they fear will lead to the demise of their high school program. Yesterday, about 30 of them and their parents rallied at the steps of the legislature for more than three hours to vent their feelings. "We're concerned that our school division was not amalgamated, it was split up and piecemealed to different divisions," said Mary Paziuk, whose two daughters attend Ethelbert School near Dauphin.
But rather than being amalgamated with an existing division, Paziuk said Duck Mountain's six schools will be divided among three school divisions -- Swan Valley, Frontier and Dauphin. That was cause for concern among the students of Ethelbert School who rallied yesterday. They said a lot of their classmates in Pine River would be forced to attend schools in their new division -- Swan Valley. "Buses would only come from their division for them and they would have no way of getting to our school," said Andrea Schur, a 16-year-old who is in Grade 11 at Ethelbert
"I'm concerned about losing the population from Pine River and the eventual closure of the school," she added. "A lot of our friends are from Pine River," added Chris Plesiuk, 15, a Grade 10 student. The decrease in the school's high school population could lead to the demise of the program, added Paziuk. "If we lose 40 per cent of our students because they're in different divisions now, will we have enough students to keep a high school program? That's the biggest concern that we have," she said. The students -- who carried signs with slogans like "Rural Kids Don't Count" -- said they felt little comfort after Education Minister Drew Caldwell came out to speak to the group.
"He was asking us about the weather, he didn't address our concerns at all," said Jana Kozar, 15. "Then he just left --what's that about?" Paziuk said there was little public consultation before the province decided to carve up the school division. "If they were looking at doing radical things such as dividing the school division, there should have been public community meetings," she said.

Division border changes close Forced amalgamations fall short of NDP goals, sources indicate
Thu, Nov 8, 2001
By Nick Martin
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell could announce the new school division borders as early as today, after lengthy cabinet and caucus sessions yesterday.The Doer government's forced amalgamation of school divisions will fall well short of making the deep cuts that some New Democrats want, sources said last night. "It's a moderate package. It's a split caucus," said one source. "It may not go as far as some of us want. Less (divisions), not drastic." Sources said that at the end of yesterday's caucus meeting, Winnipeg School Division was untouched by amalgamation. The most widely rumoured forced mergers have been Fort Garry with Assiniboine South, and St. Boniface with St. Vital. Residents of those divisions will find the announcement "more dramatic" than will the rest of Winnipeg, said one source. However, several MLAs who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Caldwell and his senior advisers expected to work on final details late last night, and that there could still be further changes, or even delays in making a public announcement. 'Appropriate notice' Premier Gary Doer's office said Caldwell would not give interviews last night, but the minister's press secretary said that school boards of affected divisions would be contacted before the new boundaries are made public. "They'll get appropriate notice. They'll have an indication of what we'll be announcing," he said. Manitoba Association of School Trustees president Don Dunnigan slammed the government yesterday. He said there has not been sufficient public discussion of the educational benefits and tax repercussions of amalgamation, and the costs of harmonizing jobs and a wide range of union contracts. "They haven't demonstrated the need -- it's political expediency," MAST executive director Carolyn Duhamel said last night. "Folks who think their taxes are going down on this one are dead wrong." As well as the four rumoured divisions in the city, MAST expects River East will be amalgamated with the urban portion of Transcona-Springfield, Duhamel said. Winnipeg, St. James-Assiniboia, and Seven Oaks would likely be left alone, she said.
Here are the divisions that have agreed to merge: Frontier School Division will take in Churchill Rhineland and Boundary in southeastern Manitoba will merge, and take in the Letellier area from Red River School Division Red River will amalgamate with Morris-Macdonald Prairie Spirit and Mountain division in southcentral Manitoba will amalgamate
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Editorials - Fewer divisions
Fri, Nov 9, 2001
A year from now, Manitobans will be electing fewer trustees for office in one-third fewer school boards. Savings the Doer government expects to see through the amalgamations announced yesterday -- reducing the number of divisions to 37 from 54 -- are all but guaranteed with the cap it is forcing upon administration costs. The move is a good first step towards improving what's delivered in the classroom. Disparities between divisions in programming and ability to pay will still exist, but there will be fewer of them.
The plan outlined by Education Minister Drew Caldwell yesterday echoes the Norrie commission, which in 1994 argued that cutting to 21 the number of school divisions would reduce administration costs by $4.5 million. Those savings, seen in other provinces that reduced school divisions, would have come from paring down administrative staff. The flaw in the Norrie blueprint, however, was that it would have carved up boundaries, unravelled administrations and support services, such as busing routes, and pieced together new infrastructure among locations historically disconnected. The adjustments would have been monumental, risking continuity of service to the students. Mr. Caldwell's plan should not be so disruptive because, for the most part, it melds whole divisions together. The government has guaranteed that the melded managements become more efficient, applying caps to the percentage allowed for administration costs. The minister has said that money -- about $10 million in annual savings by 2003/2004 when the cap comes fully into effect -- must be diverted into spending on classrooms rather than reducing taxes. This should help deflate the outcry from the Manitoba Association of School Trustees, which typically warns such cuts threaten the quality of education. The glaring inequality left unaddressed, however, is that there will remain rich divisions and poorer divisions. In the city of Winnipeg, for example, the nine divisions will be collapsed into six, but St. James-Assiniboia division, with its large commercial base to tax, remains untouched. It has 10,000 students, below Caldwell's desired range of 12,000 to 18,000 and far below Winnipeg One's student population of 30,000. It is clear that more work needs to be done to smooth out disparities and spread out the advantages of richer divisions. The Doer government has made good, within two years of its election, on a promise to force the issue into play among reluctant trustees. Manitobans should now tackle the tougher questions, such as how to put the strong capacity of some divisions to raise revenues to work for all students, rather than simply keeping taxes low for a privileged few.

Divisions scramble to make last-minute mergers
Mon, Nov 5, 2001
By Nick Martin
SCHOOL divisions are scrambling to make last-minute merger deals before the Doer government imposes amalgamation on them. Midland school board meets this evening in Carman to consider a merger pitch from White Horse Plains School Division, where school taxes are 1.5 mills higher. (The mill rate is the rate of tax paid per dollar of assessed value of property.) Education Minister Drew Caldwell goes to Dauphin tomorrow to make the case for Duck Mountain School Division to join with Dauphin-Ochre, three times its size. MLA Stan Struthers (NDP-Dauphin-Roblin) arranged that meeting after offering to help Caldwell implement mergers in rural and northern Manitoba. "We've increased funding to record levels -- we want to make sure that money gets into the classroom," Struthers said yesterday from Dauphin. "Duck Mountain has a low tax base. We have to offer kids the best opportunity." Education officials are increasingly impatient and anxious to hear how the NDP will change school division borders in Manitoba. The decision could come as early as Wednesday's cabinet meeting, though Caldwell has said it could be mid-month. "It's creating a high degree of anxiety. Most of us are thinking, tell us what you're going to do, and get it over with," said Lord Selkirk superintendent Gail Bagnall, whose Selkirk-based division is seen as an affluent and attractive merger partner. But with a low mill rate, she said, "We don't want to take on a troubled school division." With the fifth-lowest school taxes in Manitoba, Beautiful Plains School Division knows it could be merged with the less-affluent Turtle River School Division, trustee Rey Toews said from Neepawa. "There's issues of harmonizing mill rates and salaries and benefits that are an unknown. They could increase the costs of education, especially if well-off-divisions have to take on poor divisions," Toews said.
Nearby, Pelly Trail school board chairman Dennis Kowal expects his small division to be amalgamated with Intermountain or Birdtail River school divisions, or maybe with both. St. Vital school board held a strategy session last Saturday and got the word from senior staff that merging with St. Boniface would cost money, said board chairman Bob Bruce, who could not supply specific figures. Harmonizing contracts would drive up wages and benefits, he said: "We went back to our original position -- we don't believe amalgamations are going to be of educational benefit." One trustee said yesterday that Fort Garry is considering buying newspaper ads to tell Caldwell not to merge it with Assiniboine South or with anyone else.
nick.martin@freepres.mb.ca

School divisions agree to merger Red River,
Morris-Macdonald join list
Sat, Nov 3, 2001
A third set of school divisions has agreed to merge before the provincial government imposes new boundaries on them. The Red River and Morris-Macdonald school divisions have agreed to join together, with a couple of caveats. Red River taxpayers want to be protected from the Morris-Macdonald adult education scandal and the sum of up to $4 million that will have to be repaid. And Morris-Macdonald wants to make sure there is adequate funding for Red River's francophone students. The two neighbouring divisions already share services, including a superintendent, secretary-treasurer and student services co-ordinator. As well, students in each division can access vocational courses in the other's division. Superintendent Pat MacDonald said they believe the $4 million will be dealt with through a differential tax rate and added Morris-Macdonald has a lower tax rate right now than Red River. In early October, provincial auditor Jon Singleton estimated Morris-Macdonald owes the Education Department as much as $4 million for inflated enrolment figures and recruiting bonuses paid to staff. Education Minister Drew Caldwell has given the division until Monday to spell out how it will clean up the mess, or face the possibility of the province taking over operation of the division. Yesterday, Caldwell said he was pleased with the boards' decision to amalgamate. "I think it's really positive news. I'm pleased with the leadership shown," Caldwell said. The Prairie Spirit and Mountain school divisions, in south central Manitoba, announced last weekend they will amalgamate. Rhineland and Boundary school divisions in southern Manitoba have also said they will merge. Earlier this week, Caldwell said he will give school divisions until the middle of the month to come up with voluntary plans before announcing boundary changes. Manitoba has about 440 school trustees, 80 per cent of them in rural areas and representing less than half the students in the province. Last year, $7.14 million was spent on trustee salaries, expenses and support.

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Minister Drew Caldwell answering questions from Bonnie Klippenstein Brandon Area Rep School Division Sector Committee

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Minister of Education Drew Caldwell listening to the concerns about special need children in the school division sector schools. The Minister indicated that the government will be implementing the recommendations from the Special Education Needs Review. Many union members have expressed concerns about a variety of issues around this subject.

School divisions warned
Thu, Nov 22, 2001
SASKATCHEWAN school divisions are being warned to start amalgamating voluntarily or have it forced on them by the provincial government like in Manitoba. Gary Shaddock, the outgoing president of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, says it's up to trustees and boards of education to lead the way on the issue. Since 1996, the association policy on restructuring of school divisions has advocated it be locally determined on a voluntary basis.
Manitoba gave its school boards more than a year to amalgamate voluntarily but not many did. Time ran out this month and the government announced it is cutting the total number of divisions from 54 to 37, effective July 1, 2002.
Saskatchewan has 99 divisions, nearly one-fifth of the total in Canada. MANITOBA is among only three provinces where property taxes dropped this year, according to Statistics Canada. Property taxes, including school taxes, dropped 1.8 per cent in Manitoba, 3.5 per cent in Alberta and 0.6 per cent in Quebec over the last year.

Revamped education funding the key
Thu, Nov 15, 2001
By Jan Speelman
THE school division boundary changes announced by the provincial government are a steady first step toward improving the education of Manitoba children. It should, however, be looked on as only that: the first step. The urgency remains to change the system that provides the funding for public schools to make it more equitable for taxpayers, parents and our children. The province is now considering what path to take on that journey. Unfortunately, its first selection appears to be one that would see elimination of one of the two types of property taxes that are used to pay for schools in Manitoba. Why is that a bad choice? Because that decision will leave us far from the goal of fairness in public school finances. In Manitoba, unlike most other provinces, the education of our children from kindergarten to final graduation is paid for through two sources. Fifty-nine per cent of the funds come from the provincial government through a combination of:
General revenues, from such sources as income and sales taxes. The Education Support Levy, a uniform provincewide tax that the Manitoba government applies on all assessed property except farm land. The other 41 per cent of public school funds come from the Special Levy, the local property tax applied by each of the many school boards in the province. Problematic As Manitobans know when they open their property tax bills each year, it is the local property tax, not the provincial Education Support Levy, that is problematic in the extreme. Because the tax rates vary widely from school division to school division, some people pay more for the education of their children than friends a few blocks away. Rates in some divisions are up to four times that of other divisions. And some children are not afforded the same educational opportunities as friends in other communities. It all depends on how much their boards need to raise from local taxpayers to maintain a proper level of education. And that locally-implemented property tax is no small part of the overall system. Indeed, over the past 20 years local taxpayers have provided more and more of the revenue needed to fund public education, from about $100 million in 1981 to almost $450 million in 2001. School boards have had to increasingly rely on local property taxes because the provincial government has been directly funding a smaller and smaller share of our education needs. The portion the province directly funds has plummeted from 82 per cent in 1981 to 59 per cent today. The current government has recognized the problem. But instead of looking at the part of the system that allows many different, locally implemented property taxes, it is considering doing away with the single, provincially implemented property tax. Again, the provincial property tax is far more equitable than the widely differing, ever-increasing local property tax. The Manitoba Teachers' Society proposes a five-step plan that would eventually see the locally applied Special Levy absorbed by the provincially applied Education Support Levy, the very tax the province is looking to eliminate. One rate While eliminating the provincial property tax would provide no relief from inequitable taxes, nor encourage reductions in local property taxes, the MTS plan would establish tax equity by consolidating all of the disparate local tax rates into one provincial rate. At that time, the province itself could begin to reduce the reliance on property taxes overall as a bottomless revenue source to fund our public school system. The Manitoba Teachers' Society plan, details of which can be seen on our Web site at www.mbteach.org , has many other components. But what it shows clearly is that the provincial government must renew its constitutionally mandated commitment to education. Its first step toward consolidating divisions and resources is in the right direction. Step 2 should not be short-term tinkering with taxes, but finding a long-term solution for public school funding. Jan Speelman is president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society.

Amalgamation riles school trustees
Sat, Nov 10, 2001
By Nick Martin and Mia Rabson
NEITHER trustees nor parents are sold on the province's glowing predictions that forced school division amalgamations will improve students' education by shifting big bucks from administration to the classroom. They don't see obvious benefits to students, and they think merging contracts, technology systems, busing, bureaucracies and programs will not only cost more money, but be a nightmare to achieve in a few months. River East school board chairwoman Gail Scheer said her division -- like every Winnipeg school board -- has made it clear that it did not want to amalgamate. Anxiety "We have the lowest per-pupil costs in the city of Winnipeg," she said. "We have concerns what implications that has for taxes. It creates anxiety on the part of staff." St. Boniface school board chairwoman Anita Chapman fears school boards will have to ignore other education needs and issues for the next year. "To have to do that in such a short time leaves me a little worried, a little upset. Certainly, the costs are going to have to come from somewhere, whether it means laying off staff or raising taxes." Parents in Assiniboine South are livid that their requests to meet with Caldwell prior to his decision went unanswered. "The very major stakeholders have been completely left out of this process," said Dawn Lampe, a parent of two elementary school students in Assiniboine South. Lampe said nothing she has seen has been enough to prove to her that this will not be a nightmare experience for her children. "I am not opposed to amalgamation in principle if the persuasive case is made to me that there will be a benefit to my children," she said. "With this kind of massive change I have no doubt there will be a negative impact on classrooms." Each division has different regulations, such as where French immersion is offered or up to what age students will be bused to school. Amalgamation will force divisions to decide whose method should be followed and that doesn't sit well with some parents. Diane Anderson, president of the parent council at Charleswood Junior High, said Fort Garry has nine trustees, Assiniboine South has seven, meaning that if the amalgamation process takes them all to the table with one vote per trustee, Fort Garry would rule the day based on numbers alone. "I want this to be amalgamation not annexation," Anderson said. "Let's take the best from both divisions, not simply 'we have more votes than you so we win.' " Caldwell said it is up to the divisions themselves to decide how the process is going to work, but he said he will not tolerate bullying from larger divisions. "I will look very unkindly on any parochial battles that break out over turf protection," Caldwell said. With files from Helen Fallding and Federico Barahona
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Divisions no longer divided
Fri, Nov 9, 2001
HERE are the divisions being merged as of next October's municipal elections:
River East and the urban portion of Transcona-Springfield
Already the province's second-largest school division, River East spends less per student than any other city division, and outnumbers Transcona's students three-to-one. River East's three high schools are bursting, while it has looked for ways to move Grade 9 students out of junior highs and into high schools -- but Transcona schools have plenty of empty seats. And while River East trustees present a united front publicly, the Transcona school board has been disrupted by more internal trustee turmoil than any other board in Manitoba.
St. Vital and St. Boniface
With about 40 per cent of the enrolment in the new division, St. Boniface has plenty of empty seats at Nelson McIntyre and Windsor Park collegiates, and declining enrolment in older neighbourhoods. Yet growth is booming in Island Lakes and Southdale, as it is in south St. Vital, where that division has been pressing for a new high school. Is busing ahead?
Assiniboine South and Fort Garry
They have talked about asking the province to build a new jointly run high school to serve their bustling neighbouring suburbs of Whyte Ridge and Linden Woods. Merger will end their squabbling over the potential tax motherlode of 470 upscale houses to be built in the Linden Ridge subdivision.
Agassiz, the rural portion of Transcona-Springfield, Pine Falls and Whiteshell
The geographically enormous Agassiz School Division has been riddled with debts, two years ago running up a deficit of more than $1 million that's still being paid off. Many children in Springfield attend school in Winnipeg. While Springfield has almost half the new division's students in places such as Oakbank, Anola and Dugald, it will have only three of the 25 trustees planning that new division this winter.
Boundary, Rhineland and Sprague
Rhineland and Boundary merged voluntarily, even though they could identify no educational benefits or cost savings. Sprague is a one-school district destined to be swallowed by a larger neighbour.
Mountain and Prairie Spirit
Prairie Spirit was the product of the 1998 merger of Tiger Hills and Pembina Valley, and had become Education Minister Drew Caldwell's poster division for a voluntary amalgamation that improved local programs for students.
Red River and Morris-Macdonald
Morris-Macdonald has been administering the much smaller Red River through a services contract for two years while working out amalgamation details. Red River went ahead with the merger, despite the adult education funding scandal that will require Morris-Macdonald to repay as much as $4 million to the province.
Souris Valley and Antler River
The two southwestern divisions were prime candidates for forced amalgamation -- together, they barely hit the 2,000 students that Caldwell said is the minimum for individual divisions to be viable. But Antler River's taxes are more than one mill lower.
White Horse Plain and Midland
One of the least-affluent divisions, White Horse Plain was rumoured to be a prime candidate to be split among several neighbours. It offered to merge voluntarily with Midland, where taxes are 1.5 mills lower. Monday, Midland trustees rejected that deal in Carman, but their prediction that Caldwell would force amalgamation anyway proved accurate.
Pelly Trail and Birdtail River
A tiny division of barely 1,000 students along the Saskatchewan border, Pelly Trail's only suspense was whether it was going with Birdtail River to the south, Intermountain to the north, or both.
Duck Mountain with Frontier, Swan Valley and Dauphin-Ochre
Duck Mountain will be broken up and spread among Frontier, Swan Valley and Dauphin-Ochre. Caldwell flew to Dauphin Tuesday to prepare Duck Mountain trustees that the end was near. Most of Duck Mountain goes to two divisions with large regional high schools.
Churchill, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids, Snow Lake with Frontier School Division
The tiny divisions and districts of Churchill, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Snow Lake will be absorbed into Frontier School Division, which is bigger than some European countries. The four one-school districts lack resources and face costly obstacles in recruiting teachers.
Further details are available on the Internet at www.gov.mb.ca/amalgamation.

Merge first, ask questions later?
Fri, Nov 9, 2001
By Nick Martin
QUESTIONS that immediately popped up yesterday in many people's minds in Transcona-Springfield show just how complex school division amalgamation will be. For instance ... Transcona merges with River East, Springfield with Agassiz, Whiteshell and Pine Falls. Does a teacher working in Anola have to go with the huge new rural division, or can that teacher request a transfer to stay in the city division formed by Transcona and River East? Could a teacher now working in Oakbank be transferred to Whitemouth or Lac du Bonnet, and would moving expenses be offered? River East is building a multi-million dollar new headquarters, so what happens to Transcona's division office? If it is sold, do people in River East get a cut? Would people in Springfield be entitled to a share if the sale takes place after amalgamation kicks in? What happens to low-paid clerical staff whose jobs are duplicated when two division headquarters become one? Is putting such people out of work part of the NDP strategy to shift dollars to the classroom? Transcona-Springfield superintendent Ken Bell moved from Ontario this summer to take the job. River East is three times bigger, superintendent John Carlyle has seniority and is a former deputy minister of education to boot. What happens to the supes? If Calvin Christian School buys the former Park Circle School in Transcona after the merger takes effect, do residents in Springfield get a share? And by extension, would people in Agassiz or Pine Falls be entitled to have their taxes cut slightly by a portion of the sale price coming into their new division through Springfield? Bus drivers who struck last winter have a four-year contract, but do they work next year for Transcona or for Springfield? How do they divide up the buses? If an Agassiz driver has more seniority, can he bump someone from a route driving Oakbank kids into Winnipeg each day? Many children in Anola, Dugald and Oakbank plan to go into Transcona for high school -- can they still get in when they become schools-of-choice applicants? When the new division is being formed, should five trustees from Pinawa in Whiteshell School Division, with less than 300 kids, have a greater say than three Springfield trustees now responsible for 3,000 children? Transcona-Springfield trustees have to run that division until next October, when they'll split, and some won't find enough seats to retain office. How do they plan all this restructuring by March, while working on a budget for the 2002-2003 school year which will cover two months of school as the soon-to-be-defunct division, while concurrently working with River East or Agassiz trustees on budgets for divisions that will suddenly come into existence next November? And with most teachers' contracts having expired June 30, 2000, with very little sign of serious negotiating so far, and the likelihood that they'll end up in arbitration, with whom do teachers negotiate? Their current employers? Their future employers? It appears that deciding to amalgamate is one thing. Ironing out all the wrinkles will be quite another.

Division mergers to bring pay gaps Collective agreements must be harmonized
Mon, Oct 29, 2001
By Nick Martin
TEACHERS, custodians, bus drivers and school staff could soon work beside colleagues who have identical qualifications but far different salaries.
Education Minister Drew Caldwell said yesterday it could take several years for school boards to harmonize existing collective agreements after he merges school divisions across Manitoba. "Obviously, we're going to respect the collective bargaining process," Caldwell said. "Over time, there would be harmonization of collective agreements. It would take a contract or two to harmonize collective agreements." Caldwell met Saturday in Brandon with Canadian Union of Public Employees leaders who fear that imposing amalgamations on school divisions will create wide disparities among workers and lead to lower wages and fewer benefits when contracts are blended. That's not what happened in Ontario when the Harris government imposed huge amalgamations, Keewatin-Patricia School District education director Dave McLeod said from Dryden. Amalgamation significantly improved the quality of programs the larger divisions could make available, but it also wiped out the savings from reducing administrators and trustees, McLeod said. Unions took the best of each contract, and bargained hard to get the highest wages and benefits of each previous deal -- "the best of the best" -- into new collective agreements, McLeod said. Lakeshore board chairwoman Betty Green said from Eriksdale that the NDP's arbitration process is unlikely to reduce workers' wages and benefits. "The reality is, they take the best from each contract. It's cherry-picking. We're in a climate where the costs from amalgamation are likely to be higher." ould not save money Caldwell could take the amalgamations to cabinet as early as Wednesday. They would take effect in time for next October's municipal election. White Horse Plain School Division chairman Mike Stainton said from Elie yesterday that his division's offer to merge with Midland School Division in the Carman area would not save money. "There'll be plums in either of our contracts," Stainton said. "Neither side is going to close a school -- the schools are already at their geographic limits for busing."
Caldwell refused to discuss specific merger plans, but said every boundary in the city of Winnipeg is still on the table. Where it makes sense, and where it would put money into the classroom more effectively for kids, two or more divisions will be merged intact, Caldwell said. He refused to discuss trustees' claims he's told them that Transcona-Springfield is the only city division likely to be broken up. But in rural areas, Caldwell said, divisions with low assessment bases should get ready to be carved up among several neighbours, so that no one neighbouring school division would face a heavy tax burden in taking on an entire division that is less affluent.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

FRONTIER POLICY BRIEF
April 19, 1999
SCHOOL DAZE - BRING COMPETITION TO THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM
The method we use to fund public schools continues to create controversy, and public commentary about it continues to add confusion to the debate. The discussion fails to illuminate because it seldom relates spending to performance. Recently we heard through the media that, in the last decade, the proportion of property taxes dedicated to education shot up 50%. But the focus of the reports became the provincial government's cuts to education funding, with no mention of the different size of the school market. The province spends less on schools because there are relatively fewer students. Over the last 40 years, the average class size in Manitoba has declined by a third, from an average of about 25 pupils per class in 1960 to about 17 today. Imagine the fate of a private enterprise that kept increasing its budget in the face of such a market decline. The total money now allocated per student is very close to its historic high in real dollars. From 1985 to 1995, a decade of declining student loads, school boards expanded their budgets by an average of almost 1.5% a year, after inflation. Stingy we are not. Given this, the reasoning of the number crunchers who oversee the provincial budget seems pretty sound. Slight decreases in the share of tax dollars allocated to public schools over the last five years made sense. The people who actually disperse the money, the school boards, made no such adjustments. They maintained Cadillac spending when a Volkswagen level was appropriate. The difference is reflected in the gargantuan property tax bills that bedevil Winnipeg homeowners. Why did the system fail to adapt?
It's a complex question, but it comes down to the issue of accountability. School board trustees almost never get voted out of office. Even though they are responsible for nearly half of the crushing property tax load, most ratepayers don't even know their names. Why should they make tough budget choices when they can simply pass on higher costs without a political penalty? When trustees sit down to sign contracts with their staffs, they bend with the wind. Fledgling local politicians, who typically start their careers at the school board level, are no match for the experienced, professional union negotiators who represent service providers. The size of the workforce therefore remains static, and its pay levels ever higher, even in the face of a declining market. How do we fix the problem? By reconnecting the link between funding and production. The first step is to reconfigure the funding. If the Province took over sole responsibility for education spending, the unaccountable middlemen, school board trustees, would lose the power to transfer the cost of poor decisions to the hapless property taxpayer. The Province already maintains strict control over curriculum and standards, so why shouldn't the buck stop there? Eliminating the education portion of property taxes would produce an immediate economic turnaround in the City of Winnipeg, and swell the Province's surpluses. Next, decentralize the production of school services. Instead of block funding divisions, the Province could send the parents of each child a credit for use in the school of their choice. Responsibility for staff levels and pay would come down to the school itself, a system known as School-Based Management. Those teams that ran an efficient, effective operation would attract support, while those who did not would fail. The magic of competition would shake out excessive costs. Winnipeg's largest School Division, it has been charged, overspends millions of dollars just for janitorial services. In the face of abysmal test scores, is it unfair to say that the cost of basic schooling is similarly overpriced?Not at all.
Copyright 1999
Permission is granted to reprint this material.
Please assign appropriate credit to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Divisions look at merger, doubt they'll see gains
Thu, Feb 22, 2001
By Nick Martin
RHINELAND and Boundary school divisions in southeastern Manitoba are looking at amalgamating -- despite being unable to cite any advantages in merging. "No, I can't think of anything that could be done differently by formally joining," Boundary school board chairman Cindy Smart said from Vita yesterday. "We already share services with them. We share a special education co-ordinator and a psychologist. "I think the main reason we're pursuing it is because the minister (Education Minister Drew Caldwell) told us to." Rhineland school board chairman Len Schieman said amalgamating might allow the two neighbouring divisions to more easily hire specialists and clinicians. However, he said from Altona, he's not sure if a merged division would be big enough to hire fulltime staff, or continue sharing with other divisions. he two school boards are meeting Monday. "We have a similar philosophy in terms of staffing, of governance," said Schieman, a former president of the Manitoba Association of School Trustees. "We're in the discussion stages. We've had some very preliminary talks." Caldwell has told school divisions he wants a report on the status of amalgamation talks by April 20. He wants fewer school divisions in Manitoba by the next election in October of 2002, and has hinted he'll move towards imposed mergers if he doesn't see progress by the end of this June. He's singled out divisions with low assessment bases, and with fewer than 2,000 students as prime targets. Rhineland has about 1,500 students, Boundary 800. Smart said Boundary has a half-time superintendent, and one administrator doing the work of a secretary-treasurer, transportation direction, and maintenance supervisor. Merging might allow a slight trimming of senior administration, she said. Nevertheless, Smart said, Rhineland's large schools in Altona and Gretna, and Boundary's in Dominion City and Vita, are too far apart to consider busing students by concentrating grades in one school and offering children a more extensive choice of programs. A Boundary-Rhineland merger would leave tiny Sprague -- a school district, not a full division -- isolated and landlocked in the province's southeast corner. Neither division has talked to Sprague so far. MAST president Rey Toews said from Neepawa that so far only Morris-Macdonald and Red River school divisions are seriously planning amalgamation.

Alberta boards say standards raised by forced amalgamation
Wed, Oct 10, 2001
By Nick Martin
ALBERTA forced amalgamation on its school districts and took away trustees' right to raise taxes -- but its school boards reluctantly admit that the financial headaches foisted on them have still led to an improved public education system. "It has resulted in a higher standard of education," said Lois Byers, the head of the Alberta School Boards Association. "It has put trustees in a stronger governance situation" to offer a wider range of programs concentrated in particular schools in the enlarged divisions. The Alberta government chopped 141 school boards down to 57 in 1994, while reducing trustees from 1,200 to 460, and ordered that no more than four per cent of the budget go to trustees, administrators, and office costs.
That last one was the zinger, said Byers, who estimated school boards had been spending six to 10 per cent on administration. Schools opted to share some administrative functions to meet the four per cent cap: "The whole communications area was virtually wiped out," as were curriculum support services. Department of education reports in Manitoba don't lump such services together, but individually they total about eight per cent of public education spending. Manitoba school divisions spent $7.14 million last year on trustees' compensation, expenses, and staff services, about $37.4 million on management costs, and about $61 million on a wide variety of student and instructional support services offered by each division.
Alberta still collects property taxes to cover 38 per cent of public education, but pools the money on a per-student basis. Edmonton and Calgary each have one board to operate all the public schools in those cities -- Edmonton nine trustees for 80,000 students, Calgary seven school board seats for 100,000 children. Calgary and Edmonton trustees have had no problem running systems that large, Byers said. There are 75 public school trustees in Winnipeg. Alberta gave its school boards two years to merge, Byers said: "If you didn't have it work out, it was done to you." Alberta dictates how much school boards can spend each year on transportation, buildings, maintenance and administration, she said, though trustees can raid any pot to fund the classroom. There were significant job cuts in 1995, Byers said, and trustees believe provincial funding is inadequate for rural busing and maintenance of aging schools. Only Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Quebec still let trustees raise money through school taxes. Like Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia collect and distribute property taxes for education province-wide, while New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland have dropped property taxes for education entirely.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Divisions see no benefits, but merger going ahead
Wed, Oct 10, 2001
TWO small school divisions in southern Manitoba are going to merge voluntarily -- even though they don't really see any benefits.Rhineland school board chairman Len Schieman said Rhineland and Boundary school divisions will amalgamate in time for the October 2002 municipal election, but admitted they're hard-pressed to identify what they will gain -- other than not having the province impose amalgamation. The two divisions include the communities of Gretna, Vita, Dominion City, Altona, Emerson and Rosenfeld.
The merged division will have its office in Altona, and reduce from 12 trustees to nine, he said, but will save no more than $50,000 annually -- enough to hire one new teacher. There will be no concentration of programs to give kids better education choices, he said: "The schools will basically stay the way they are. "Why do it? I guess if we were expected to amalgamate, it was simply a matter of two divisions who've gotten along well in the past," Schieman said. Noted Bill Norrie, the former Winnipeg mayor whose commission recommended sweeping boundary changes in the mid-90s: "That seems to be the whole emphasis of this government, you choose who you go with." His commission believed that widespread mergers could overcome the problems of declining rural population by concentrating programs in fewer schools and expanding choices. "You could give a better education, if you had larger areas. There were tradeoffs -- you'd have to bus students," he said.
"It was never designed to save money," said Norrie; the commission's goal was to improve the quality of education.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

School boundaries decision is near
Some trustees asking for more time
Wed, Oct 31, 2001
THE Doer government's decision on imposing new school division boundaries will come by mid-November, Education Minister Drew Caldwell said last night. There was widespread speculation among school trustees that cabinet would approve the boundary changes this morning, but Caldwell quashed that possibility last night. Some trustees are asking for more time to merge voluntarily before the NDP imposes new borders. "We still have a couple of weeks to thrash this out," he said. "We have more divisions calling to seek voluntary amalgamations." He would not identify the divisions, or even say whether they are urban or rural. "Right now, there are a number of divisions where we have one consensual partner, and one shy partner."
Caldwell said Premier Gary Doer has not set a deadline for a boundary decision, but acknowledged that time is running out to give school divisions enough time to merge before next October's municipal elections. Yesterday, Tory education critic Harold Gilleshammer (Minnedosa) demanded that Caldwell strike a commission to study the issue before imposing changes. But Caldwell said the Norrie Commission report of the mid-'90s fulfils the Public Schools Act's requirement of a review commission before amalgamations. "Mr. Gilleshammer appears to be advocating further dithering on this matter. His government was the one that didn't act on the Norrie Commission."

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Minister Drew Caldwell answering question from Bob Caithness CUPE local 3745 President River East School Division and Winnipeg Area B Rep CUPE School Division Sector

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Dennis Fradin Vice President CUPE Local 3745 sharing some of the comments made by the Minister. The Minister is expecting to announce the boundary changes soon in time for the next election in Oct 2002. There will be modest system wide changes over the next 3 to 4 years. We will end up with 15 to 20 fewer divisions. This is an opportunity for CUPE locals to organize and recruit new members. Amalgamations are all about the children and what is best for them. It is important to have local control. Encouraging parent council and board partnerships, gave examples of Assiniboine South and Frontier School Divisions. I was generally impressed with his speech. The response from members was positive as well. Speaking to a local Brandon resident about politics his comment about Drew Caldwell was that he was a "good man." All in all we were very encouraged by most of his comments. We feel there is an opportunity for amalgamations to take place, where there will be improvements in the quality of education for our children, while respecting and improving all education staff and support staff contracts.

LETTER to the EDITOR
Fri, Nov 23, 2001
Caldwell just helping Agassiz students
Education Minister Drew Caldwell did not encourage the "fudging" of budget numbers in Agassiz School Division for reasons of political or personal gain; he did it because he believed that it was the right thing to do. As a former teacher, he likely knows the frustration felt by teachers and students alike when funds are decreased; less supplies, outdated texts, overworked teachers -- these are all consequences of an underfunded school division. I don't think that any Manitoba parent wants their child's education hindered by these conditions. I recognize Conservative leader Stuart Murray's attempt at righteous indignation, but I'm afraid he won't be winning any Oscars in the near future. A large portion of my public education was spent under Gary Filmon's PC government, so I know how much the PC party cares about education. Unfortunately, I experienced the aforementioned consequences of underfunding first-hand, and I believe that they hindered the education that I could have received and entered university with. Mr. Murray should devote his time to criticizing subjects that are closer to his own party's ideological standpoint, and stop pouncing on every little mistake that the NDP government makes.
TARA BOHUNE
Winnipeg

Society begins work on amalgamations
The boundary changes announced by the province will have an impact on as many as 40 per cent of the teachers in Manitoba.The changes raise a number of questions, many of which can't be answered immediately. Those answers will come as discussions and negotiations begin among all the parties involved and will be posted here on the MTS website.
In the short-term local associations should continue with their current obligations and mandates in all aspects of association work. Associations should avoid entering into any discussions with current school boards and superintendents on any matters that could prejudice collective and individual member rights. If members are approached by a representative of a division about amalgamation, they should contact a staff officer. Collective bargaining committees will continue the current round of bargaining, uninterrupted until conclusion.
The Society will provide administrative staff services to support the membership throughout the amalgamation process, including: provision of on-going information to all associations and to individual members provision of assistance to facilitate planning of association amalgamations. Any question raised by members during the course of various meetings and conversations should be directed to the attention of administrative staff. All questions will be invaluable for staff throughout the preparation of information kits and presentation of workshops and seminars. The Society's goal is to do the utmost to provide consistent and accurate advice to members and to associations in response to all the issues as they may arise. The government's plansAmalgamation maps The MTS response Here is how the Manitoba Teachers' Society will help you if you are in a division affected by amalgamations:
1. Your present collective agreement continues to be in force and effect.
2. Experience counts. The Society has worked through the details of amalgamations in the past in Prairie Spirit (Pembina Valley and Tiger Hills) in the creation of the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM), and in the joining of the St. Boniface and Norwood divisions.
3. Presidents will be briefed. At the Nov. 17 Presidents' Council, local association presidents will be briefed and have the opportunity to ask questions at a special half-day session on the changes to school division boundaries.
4. Bargainers will be briefed. At the Nov. 24 Collective Bargaining Seminars, local association bargainers will deal with the details-and the impact on bargaining-of any changes to division boundaries.
5. There is a body of law underpinning any change. The Society has access to its own legal counsel and to that of other provincial teacher organizations where amalgamations have occurred.
6. We've done our homework. MTS bargaining staff had been poring over the existing legislation in anticipation of the announcement. Staff will bring all their expertise to bear on the issue of new division boundaries.
7. The Society will work hard to help you maintain your salary, benefits, sick leave accumulations and rights.

Province will let divisions divvy up teachers, staff
Amalgamation to force shuffle of employees
Thu, Nov 15, 2001
By Nick Martin
SCHOOL divisions forced to amalgamate will have to figure out for themselves how to divide up their teachers and other employees without any help from the Doer government, deputy education minister Ben Levin said yesterday. The province won't tell amalgamating divisions how to set up their new school boards, beyond capping boards at nine trustees and setting limits on population disparities among potential wards, Levin said. "We aren't going to require there to be wards," Levin said. "The boards that are amalgamating have to manage amalgamation." Education Minister Drew Caldwell announced last Thursday that 54 divisions will shrink to 37 as of next October's municipal election. Two divisions, Transcona-Springfield and Duck Mountain, will be broken up and merged with several neighbours. Where teachers, bus drivers and other staff go when divisions split is up to the school boards involved, Levin said. Manitoba Teachers' Society president Jan Speelman said teachers' bargaining units are meeting Saturday to try to figure out how amalgamation affects teachers, but she cautioned that it could be the employer's decision where teachers end up when boundaries change. She urged teachers now in rural schools in Transcona-Springfield who want to work in the urban division formed by Transcona and River East, to apply for a transfer into the city as of next fall as soon as possible. But, she said, it could be up to the employer where those teachers go when the division splits. Caldwell expects that amalgamation will save $10 million in administration costs that he wants redirected into classrooms. Because of the job cuts driving some of those potential savings, St. James-Assiniboia School Division is keeping applications open until Nov. 30 for its soon-to-be-vacant top job so that superintendents squeezed out by amalgamation can apply, school board chairman Bruce Alexander said yesterday. The division was not affected by amalgamation. Director of education George Buchholz is retiring at the end of June.
Six city school divisions are being merged into three.
Transcona-Springfield bus drivers who won a new contract after striking last winter will not know much about where they'll be working following amalgamation before the summer, United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Don Keith said yesterday. "It became obvious during the strike -- we have two distinct divisions," Keith said. Those who drove within Transcona may stay with the urban portion of the division joining River East, he said, while rural drivers will accompany the R.M. of Springfield when it joins Agassiz School Division. But Keith could not say what will happen to drivers who drive kids from Oakbank or Anola to high schools in Transcona each day. River East had its own strike last winter of bus drivers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Avoid single-trustee wards, consultant warns divisions
Mon, Nov 12, 2001
By Nick Martin
AMALGAMATED school divisions should avoid setting up single-trustee wards -- that leads to parochial thinking, the expert who will steer trustees through forced and voluntary mergers warned last night. If divisions go to nine wards of one trustee each, that single politician may concentrate on pleasing local voters rather than thinking about the division as a whole. "That tends towards parochialism. That's a piece boards will have to think long and hard about," said David Church. Church left the Manitoba Association of School Trustees Thursday after 14 years as communications director, to become an independent consultant. Education Minister Drew Caldwell immediately retained Church to help school boards form the political structures of their new divisions in time for next October's municipal election. They have until March 1 to decide what to do. "It's going to take much longer than a year to process," Church predicted. Caldwell shrank 54 school divisions down to 37. Church said new divisions may choose to set up three wards of three trustees apiece.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

School boards slashed 100 trustees to lose their jobs
Merging divisions to save $10M
Fri, Nov 9, 2001
By Nick Martin
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell finally dropped the axe on Manitoba's school divisions yesterday, slashing school boards from 54 to 37, putting 100 trustees out of work next fall and cutting $10 million in administrative costs.
Caldwell claimed that chopping administration in merged divisions and imposing new limits on spending for administration would free up $10 million to put back into classrooms by the 2003-2004 budget year, leading to better education for Manitoba children. However, he made no promises of tax savings. "Our first responsibility is to children in the classroom," Caldwell stressed. He gave the new divisions until March 1 to figure out their new political structure, and he capped almost every school board in the province at a maximum nine trustees. Because of their enormous geographical area, Frontier School Division and the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine will be allowed to have 11 trustees. Caldwell confirmed the previously-reported mergers in Winnipeg of St. Boniface and St. Vital school divisions, Assiniboine South with Fort Garry, and River East with the Transcona urban portion of Transcona-Springfield School Division. The forced mergers take effect with next October's municipal election.
Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray, who recently called on Caldwell to create one city-wide school division, applauded yesterday's actions as a good first step to moving to a uniform tax rate and putting tax dollars into the classroom. It is the biggest overhaul of Manitoba's public education system in half a century, Caldwell said. "Our goal from the outset as a government has been to improve education for the students of Manitoba," he said. "I expect significant redirection of resources." Caldwell capped spending on administration -- including trustees -- at four per cent of budgets in Winnipeg and Brandon, 4.5 per cent in rural Manitoba and five per cent in the north. He said the provincial average is 4.7 per cent of education spending, with some divisions spending eight per cent of their education dollars on administration. However, there is no cap on how much divisions can spend to administer programs for special needs children. Caldwell said merged divisions should cut costs through economies of scale and put that money in the classroom by offering their current "programs of excellence" to far greater numbers of students, possibly even increasing the number of teachers in schools where a wider range of programs could be concentrated. However, Caldwell stopped far short of slashing his way down to the 22 divisions that the Norrie commission on boundaries, headed by former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie, had recommended in the mid-90s, which included only four divisions in Winnipeg. Caldwell left Winnipeg, Seven Oaks and St. James-Assiniboia untouched. "Norrie went further than the divisions and trustees and parents around the province felt was necessary," Caldwell told reporters.
Norrie could not be reached last night. When deciding which divisions to impose amalgamation upon, Caldwell said, he considered neighbouring divisions' communities of interest, common values, and their mill rates, wanting to avoid an adverse impact on divisions with low mill rates. St. James-Assiniboia has the lowest school taxes in Winnipeg, and it has two NDP backbenchers, Jim Rondeau and Bonnie Korzieniowski, who narrowly won traditional Conservative seats in 1999. Any merger would have sent St. James-Assiniboia's school taxes skyrocketing. Despite having said repeatedly in the last year that divisions with fewer than 2,000 students are not viable, Caldwell could not give a clear explanation why he did not touch small rural divisions with larger and more affluent neighbours such as Turtle River, Pine Creek, Intermountain, Western, and Fort la Bosse, most of them in Tory strongholds with little political downside for the NDP. Caldwell is paying $50 per student to the handful of rural divisions that met his demand to merge voluntarily, but he is denying that funding to those who had amalgamation forced on them, though he will consider sharing "legitimate" costs of amalgamation. In River East, demanding to be left untouched meant the loss of close to $700,000. MLA Nancy Allan (NDP-St. Vital), a former trustee in Norwood and St. Boniface, said school boards should concentrate first on restructuring their governance systems. She shrugged off the possibility that staff, from superintendents down to clerical workers in duplicate jobs, could be laid off, as a decision to be made by trustees: "That doesn't happen in this office."
Manitoba Association of School Trustees executive director Carolyn Duhamel said it would have been reasonable for Caldwell to give the $50 per student to every affected division. "This will be perceived as punishing and vindictive." But trustees were still skeptical last night that students will benefit and that costs will not go up as divisions harmonize union contracts. "Our concern will be, what are the positive things that will happen in the classroom?" MAST president Don Dunnigan said from The Pas. "Why do it?" Cutting administration may save a little money, but it will not go to classrooms, Dunnigan said: "The harmonization of contracts will cause a lot of that money to be absorbed internally." Dunnigan said superintendents and secretary-treasurers have hefty buyout clauses if they lose their top spot through amalgamation: "Changes like that don't come cheap."
Caldwell placed a moratorium on closing schools in merged divisions before Sept. 1, 2005. However, schools already under review, such as Mountbatten School in St. Vital, can be closed earlier. Caldwell predicted there could be even more divisions that now see the positive side of merging: "This is good news for the public education system. I fully expect we will have more activity around voluntary amalgamation."
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

School boundaries decision is near
Some trustees asking for more time
Wed, Oct 31, 2001
THE Doer government's decision on imposing new school division boundaries will come by mid-November, Education Minister Drew Caldwell said last night. There was widespread speculation among school trustees that cabinet would approve the boundary changes this morning, but Caldwell quashed that possibility last night. Some trustees are asking for more time to merge voluntarily before the NDP imposes new borders. "We still have a couple of weeks to thrash this out," he said. "We have more divisions calling to seek voluntary amalgamations." He would not identify the divisions, or even say whether they are urban or rural. "Right now, there are a number of divisions where we have one consensual partner, and one shy partner."
Caldwell said Premier Gary Doer has not set a deadline for a boundary decision, but acknowledged that time is running out to give school divisions enough time to merge before next October's municipal elections. Yesterday, Tory education critic Harold Gilleshammer (Minnedosa) demanded that Caldwell strike a commission to study the issue before imposing changes. But Caldwell said the Norrie Commission report of the mid-'90s fulfils the Public Schools Act's requirement of a review commission before amalgamations. "Mr. Gilleshammer appears to be advocating further dithering on this matter. His government was the one that didn't act on the Norrie Commission."

School boards told boundary changes won't be confined to rural areas Mergers on, NDP warns city divisions
Thu, Oct 25, 2001
By Nick Martin
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell has told city trustees that he will merge school divisions within Winnipeg.
School boards who've met with the minister this week say the new boundaries could be announced as early as next week. Caldwell has told them that divisions being amalgamated will not be broken up, with the exception of Transcona-Springfield School Division. Caldwell has previously told rural divisions of fewer than 2,000 students that they should amalgamate with their neighbours, but it is the first time that he has said clearly that Winnipeg's school divisions will have mergers imposed on them. But Caldwell, who was not available last night, has not divulged his new boundaries map to trustees. "He certainly indicated there would be fewer city divisions, and they wouldn't be broken up. He said there would be one exception, and that would be Transcona. He didn't say how it would be broken up," St. Boniface board chairwoman Anita Chapman said last night. Chapman and St. Vital chairman Bob Bruce said there are widespread rumours that the Doer government will amalgamate their two divisions. "The schools and the cultural background, they're very similar," Chapman said. "He told us there were going to be amalgamations in the city of Winnipeg. All the minister said was, expect things to look different in the city than they do now," Bruce said. "The best indication we got from him was he wouldn't be following the divisions as laid out through the Norrie report." Former mayor Bill Norrie headed a commission in the mid-'90s that recommended using the rivers to carve Winnipeg into four divisions from the 11 that now lie completely or partially within the city.
Assiniboine South chairwoman Wendy Moroz has sent employees and parent councils a letter stating that Caldwell promised her division at an Oct. 5 meeting that it would not be carved up and shared among several divisions: "Should Assiniboine South be subject to amalgamation, the division would not be divided. The communities of River West Park, Westdale, Charleswood, Tuxedo and Lindenwoods would remain together." Fort Garry chairman Brent Pooles has heard nothing from Caldwell, but acknowledged rumours that Fort Garry and Assiniboine South could be amalgamated. Their contiguous suburbs of Lindenwoods, Whyte Ridge, and close to 500 upscale homes about to be built in Linden Ridge are booming with young families and in desperate need of a high school. "We anticipate amalgamation in the city. I did hear there would be anywhere from one to six (divisions)," said Winnipeg School Division chairwoman Liz Ambrose, who heard this weekend from a River East trustee that the urban part of Transcona would be merged with River East.
Transcona-Springfield chairwoman Mary Andree, St. James-Assiniboia's Scott Johnston, River East chairwoman Gail Scheer, and Morley Jacobs of Seven Oaks all said last night that Caldwell has not tipped his hand to them. Johnston said the Norrie report recommended amalgamating his division with Fort Garry and Assiniboine South, but given St. James-Assiniboia's stout opposition to any change to its boundaries, his board will probably be the last to hear.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

General Vice-President's Report To the CUPE Saskatchewan Annual Convention March 8 - 10, 2001, Regina, Saskatchewan
Greetings:
It is again my pleasure to offer this report on our past year's activities to the your annual convention. It is both a pleasure and an honour to serve as GVP for Saskatchewan and Manitoba on our union's National Executive Board, and it will come as no surprise to you when I state that the past year has again been a busy one. The Education sector has been very busy. A cost-share campaign was approved by the NEB relating to a public relations campaign, and this has gotten off to a great start. Representatives from your Division attended Manitoba's School Board Workers Conference held in Brandon, MB in November 2000 and I know this was a positive experience for all concerned.
Manitoba Division
The 23,000 members of the Manitoba Division have been very busy over the past year. The election of the Doer Government in September 1999 ended 11 long years of Tory rule, and we are still in the process of fixing the damage done to our Labour Relations Act and the funding of public services in our province. Our education sector is concerned over announced plans to merge school divisions. Another key priority for them is to improve WCB coverage for school board support workers. Organizing is a big priority in Manitoba and we have added over 500 members in the last year, and developed a strategic organizing plan for 2001 with a key emphasis in the education sector.

Simply end school boards New Zealand experience shows education costs dropped
Sat, Oct 13, 2001
PETER HOLLE
WINNIPEG residents suffer the highest residential property taxes in the country. The combination of high city and school taxes bestows a sad legacy -- a slow growth rate and among the lowest property values in Canada. Most Winnipeggers would agree with a recent complaint from Mayor Glen Murray that constantly rising school taxes are smothering his modest tax cuts. The public school system consumes about half of Winnipeg's property taxes. The city has no control over that spending but is required by law to collect it for public school boards. But Murray's solution was off the mark. He suggested that the province amalgamate all city school boards into one giant board, to create "administrative efficiencies" and "economies of scale." Unfortunately, Education Minister Drew Caldwell, who otherwise should be commended for talking about ending school-related property taxes altogether, reacted positively to the idea. The vision of efficient gargantuan monopolies evokes rusty images of a wrecked giant tractor factory in the old Soviet Union. Yet the Filmon government also favoured this type of exhausted public policy thinking. It believed that larger divisions were more efficient, and began a program to encourage voluntary amalgamations. Few divisions took the bait, so the Doer government now wants to force the issue. We can predict that creating one gigantic Winnipeg school division will produce an outcome more likely to resemble a rusty bucket than a sleek vehicle for schooling. Public school boards provide mixed results in spite of constantly rising budgets because they are organized as cost-plus monopolies. It is far easier to raise taxes than it is to manage assets well, trim overheads or adopt practices that reward efficiency. Taking several smaller monopoly school boards and creating one larger one with the same weak incentives to be effective obviously gets us nowhere. In fact, the same flawed logic gave us the Unicity model's high municipal property taxes. Prof. Robert Bish convincingly argues in a recent C.D. Howe paper that larger municipal units, in fact, produce diseconomies of scale and higher costs. A lot of public services, like schooling, are highly personalized, and work better when localized. Instead of moving backwards by tinkering with obsolete structures, we need to ask a simple question: Do we still need school boards at all? The case for keeping them is exceedingly weak. A dismal 15 to 20 per cent of the population bothers to vote in school board elections. Many of them have no control over most of their costs. Essentially all they are is another administrative middleman between schools and the province. Herein lies a better answer for Murray to run with: Why not simply get rid of them?
Policy change
The latest Frontier Centre paper describes New Zealand's experience with abolishing school boards, a successful policy change begun by that country's Labour government in 1989 (see www.fcpp.org). It suggests that removing the administrative middleman there has been a great success.
New Zealand's education reforms started from a base similar to ours. The national government administered education through a complex bureaucratic structure. The ministry of education made all the rules and controlled expenditures with prescriptive regulations. It determined the curriculum, how it would be taught and how performance would be measured. In every region, the ministry established boards of education to whom it delegated limited power. The result was an unresponsive educational system where parents had little or no influence and which failed to meet acceptable achievement levels. Seventy cents of every education dollar was consumed before it reached the classroom. The reform package entirely eliminated all school boards and replaced them with unpaid trustees elected by parents in each school. The trustees make all spending decisions, and have full responsibility for what happens at their school. Each set of trustees writes a charter for their school, and is bound by and accountable for achieving its goals. The ministry of education now simply passes to the trustees a block of money determined by a formula based on the number of students at the school. It also audits school performance, measuring it against the promises made in the charter. Reflecting its new role, the ministry was reduced to about half its former size. Ending school boards dramatically reduced the proportion of spending devoted to out-of-class costs. The positive flipside was in the classroom where resources available doubled from 33 per cent to 67 per cent of total spending.
The turnabout was reflected in improved academic performance. Grade 12 graduates in New Zealand now score 22 per cent higher than their American counterparts in international mathematics and science tests. The newly competitive culture of the New Zealand education system enjoys a great deal of public support in that land, a fact that confounds its critics. These come mainly from the ranks of teacher unions, whose influence has been reduced under the reforms. We can achieve more accountability, a higher level of academic excellence and more effective spending in our public schools, all at the same time. But we won't get to that spot by creating one giant, monolithic Winnipeg school board. We all share Murray's desire to do something about ever-increasing school taxes on property. However, we need to go precisely the opposite way, lowering education costs and improving the system at the same time by ending school boards altogether.
Peter Holle is president of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Divisions look at merger, doubt they'll see gains
Thu, Feb 22, 2001
By Nick Martin
RHINELAND and Boundary school divisions in southeastern Manitoba are looking at amalgamating -- despite being unable to cite any advantages in merging. "No, I can't think of anything that could be done differently by formally joining," Boundary school board chairman Cindy Smart said from Vita yesterday. "We already share services with them. We share a special education co-ordinator and a psychologist. "I think the main reason we're pursuing it is because the minister (Education Minister Drew Caldwell) told us to." Rhineland school board chairman Len Schieman said amalgamating might allow the two neighbouring divisions to more easily hire specialists and clinicians. However, he said from Altona, he's not sure if a merged division would be big enough to hire fulltime staff, or continue sharing with other divisions. The two school boards are meeting Monday. "We have a similar philosophy in terms of staffing, of governance," said Schieman, a former president of the Manitoba Association of School Trustees. "We're in the discussion stages. We've had some very preliminary talks." Caldwell has told school divisions he wants a report on the status of amalgamation talks by April 20. He wants fewer school divisions in Manitoba by the next election in October of 2002, and has hinted he'll move towards imposed mergers if he doesn't see progress by the end of this June. He's singled out divisions with low assessment bases, and with fewer than 2,000 students as prime targets. Rhineland has about 1,500 students, Boundary 800. Smart said Boundary has a half-time superintendent, and one administrator doing the work of a secretary-treasurer, transportation direction, and maintenance supervisor. Merging might allow a slight trimming of senior administration, she said. Nevertheless, Smart said, Rhineland's large schools in Altona and Gretna, and Boundary's in Dominion City and Vita, are too far apart to consider busing students by concentrating grades in one school and offering children a more extensive choice of programs. A Boundary-Rhineland merger would leave tiny Sprague -- a school district, not a full division -- isolated and landlocked in the province's southeast corner. Neither division has talked to Sprague so far. MAST president Rey Toews said from Neepawa that so far only Morris-Macdonald and Red River school divisions are seriously planning amalgamation.

Two small school divisions will merge
Decision comes after Caldwell's directive
Sun, Oct 28, 2001
By Leah Janzen
TWO small school divisions in south central Manitoba have announced they will amalgamate voluntarily by the end of the school year. Prairie Spirit School Division and Mountain School Division will join forces July 1, 2002. The voluntary merger comes after Education Minister Drew Caldwell called on smaller rural divisions to amalgamate willingly with their neighbours or be forced to do so by the province. "We see this as a positive thing," said Prairie Spirit superintendent Lorne Miller. "We anticipate it will be an invigorating experience for both divisions and we're looking forward to reaping the benefits of being a larger division." Prairie Spirit School Division was born out of an amalgamation of the Tiger Hills School Division and the Pembina Valley School Division three years ago.
Miller said that merger resulted in increased curriculum support, technological support and better school maintenance for the schools involved. He said the amalgamation of the 21 schools in Prairie Spirit with Mountain's 11 schools should result in even more benefits for students and staff. "As a bigger division we have stronger purchasing power," he explained. The marriage will also result in fewer trustees, said Henri Bouvier, superintendent of Mountain division. Prairie Spirit and Mountain currently have nine trustees each. Bouvier estimates that number will drop to between nine and 11 in total when the merger is complete. Manitoba has about 440 school trustees, 80 per cent of them in rural areas representing fewer than half the students in the province. Last year, school divisions spent $7.14 million on trustee salaries, expenses and support. Administration staff costs will also drop as a result of the amalgamation, but Miller said no jobs will be lost. Extraneous positions will be weeded out over time through attrition. In recent months, Caldwell has asked the 31 rural divisions with less than 2,000 students to merge with their neighbours or be divided among three or four bordering divisions. Caldwell has also said he will amalgamate the 10 school divisions that now lie within the city of Winnipeg. While he hasn't outlined his plan, administrators suspect Caldwell will create four new divisions for the city. In southern Manitoba, Rhineland and Boundary school divisions have already announced they will merge in time for the October 2002 municipal election. Morris-Macdonald and Red River school divisions are also talking seriously about amalgamation. The changes mean lower costs, but critics say it could also mean less local control and higher taxes for divisions that are merged with less affluent neighbouring divisions.
leah.janzen@freepress.mb.ca

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