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School trustees face daunting challenge

By Darlyne Bautista

Today, many Filipinos are willing to spend much of their lives abroad as OFWs or as immigrants to secure the best education for their families and children. In Winnipeg, I share the opinion of many Filipino-Canadians who see education as the best and only investment towards our future. So as my colleagues and I on the Board of Trustees of the Winnipeg School Division discuss the upcoming 2012/2013 budget, I wish to report to you that we are committed to providing the best possible education for our children by supporting the goals and programs that matter most to you.

The Winnipeg School Division is the largest school division in the city with over 33,000 students and 77 schools. It is divided into 4 districts (Inner City, Central, North and South) that represent a wide range of socio-economic, ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity. As I’ve mentioned before, it is also the school division I was raised in as a child growing up in the North End. It’s the school division that gave me many opportunities to foster my interests to become a scholar and community leader. Now that I sit on the School Board, I try to place myself in the same position as previous Trustees whose decisions shaped my own education.

The Winnipeg School Division continues to offer programs and services that are not mandated by the Public Schools Act. What this means is that our school tax dollars ensured that I (and many, many other children) attended nursery at no cost. It also means that children are able to focus on the lessons of the day without having to worry about being hungry because our schools also offer nutrition programs. Moreover, it provides valuable physiotherapy and occupational therapy for our special needs children. It also means that our mga bagong dating can count on the important support of Community Liaison Officers. This resource has been integral for us to launch the ANAK Kapatid Mentorship Program in 2006, which continues to run today. These are but a few of the unique and valuable initiatives the Winnipeg School Division continues to offer. However, with the dismal state of the economy, both locally and around the world, my colleagues and I have some very tough decisions to make.

As the amount of funding from the Province for the 2012/2013 school year will be the same as for the 2011/2012 school year, there will be no additional funding to offset the rising costs for existing programs and the Division’s 2.5 per cent increase in enrolment. Increases are required to the budget to maintain existing programs and services for students. These include provisions for salaries, increments and benefits, as well as utility, supplies and service rate increases. Additional budget allocations are required to address investments to maintain school buildings. These include electrical upgrades and additional outlets, heating and ventilation equipment maintenance, window replacement and safety measures. Investments are also required to maintain and upgrade computer technology for students.

The revenue required from property taxation would result in a tax increase of approximately $80 (eight per cent) for a typical house assessed at just over $150,000 in the Winnipeg School Division. The effect on individual properties will vary due to the impact of the general property reassessment conducted for 2012 by the City of Winnipeg. To assist in projecting education property taxes for an individual property, a property calculator has been posted on the Winnipeg School Division web site at

A draft budget has already been distributed to all schools, parent councils, student councils, advisory committees, employee groups and others on request. It is also posted on Division’s website. I encourage you to share your thoughts on this upcoming budget by contacting me at

The deadline to provide feedback regarding the budget will be received by the Board until March 2, 2012. The Board of Trustees will approve the budget at its meeting to be held March 12, 2012. The Board must finalize the budget by March 15, 2012, as required by legislation.

Darlyne Bautista is a school trustee in the Winnipeg School Division, Ward 3.