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The Manitoba Government announced Thursday a $6.6 million increase in funding for public school divisions. In total, the province will invest $1.323 billion in public school divisions for the 2018-19 school year.

There will be an increase of $40,000 to Intensive Newcomers Support Contingency funding, to help divisions with new arrivals of refugees and other high-needs English as an additional language students.

Meantime, Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart has directed school divisions to limit any increases to local education property tax to two per cent, adding The Public Services Sustainability Act wage freeze would relieve pressure on divisions.

Wishart also announced a 15 per cent reduction to the existing administration cost caps. He explained administration costs have increased by $5.6 million (nine per cent), in the past three years.

“It is imperative we reduce administrative costs while protecting front line services,” said the minister, noting all divisions have made an effort, with many spending well below the limit.

"We certainly believe that this is doable, with the 2 per cent local levy... and the fact that we have frozen effectively the biggest single part of the cost, that being teachers' salaries," said Wishart. "There are other associated factors with the lower administration cap, so we believe it's doable."

He also announced government's intention to streamline provincial bargaining for public school teachers, creating a single bargaining table rather than the province's current 38 collective bargaining units.

"That results in a replication thirty-eight times over, of a process that generally delivers little variation in settlements across the province. This is inefficient and it takes our teachers' and trustees' time as they sit around the bargaining table," said Wishart.

Currently, Manitoba is the only province where teacher collective bargaining is negotiated separately between each school board and its association.

Wishart said consultations will be held shortly to determine the most appropriate bargaining framework for Manitoba.

The province is also phasing out the Tax Incentive Grant over the next six years. The grant will be adjusted so divisions do not receive less than 98 per cent of last year’s operating and TIG support combined.

Wishart added that further financing examination will happen in early 2019, when the province launches its review of the K-12 education system.

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