Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) is pleased with the province's announcement that it will undertake a comprehensive review of the K to 12 education system in 2019, including funding.
“In fact, I would say we’re more than pleased – this is something we’ve requested for decades,” said KAP President Dan Mazier. “Farmers pay a disproportionate amount of education taxes because they are billed on their land, and an average size farm these days is about 1,200 acres. Our current system of education funding was developed in an era when the average farm size was 160 acres and there were one-room schoolhouses.
“In this system, unless school divisions significantly reduce their mill rates, farmers’ education tax bills would continue to rise. We’re already in a crisis situation, and I don’t see how we can absorb anymore.”
Mazier said the education taxes from a KAP member he recently spoke with have risen from $4.35 per acre in 2010 to $11.53 per acre in 2017. Applying that to the average farm size, the tax bill would have increased by $8,616 in seven years.
The farm lobby group has outlined for the government a number of important principles that should guide the review, including that the review panel consist of people who represent multiple interests. KAP wants a variety of consultation formats so that all stakeholders have adequate opportunity to contribute. This includes one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders, public townhall meetings for the general public, and opportunities for online or written submissions. KAP also asks that the review panel consider fairness in a funding system so that all Manitobans are proportionately contributing to the cost of education, as well as flexibility so that school divisions can address local needs.
“We realize this is a tall order, and it can’t happen over night,” said Mazier. “However, if the review is to take place in 2019 after this fall’s school board elections, the plan and the framework must be put in place now, so it’s ready to go.”
Mazier urged the government to start work on this immediately.