March 9, 2009
Manitoba’s School-closure Moratorium One Year Later
• Manitoba’s student population has declined steadily over the last few decades. In 1970, there were approximately 247,000 kindergarten to grade 12 students and that number decreased to about 180,000 by 2008 - a 27 per cent decline.
• Out of the 684 public schools in Manitoba, 249 had fewer than 150 students in September 2007.
• In 2008, the Manitoba NDP government enacted a moratorium on school closures in the province, but there are a number of significant problems with this moratorium:
- It fails to take into account the variety of circumstances faced by school divisions across the province.
- The quality of education received by many students will continue to suffer.
- The moratorium scuttles sensible school-closure plans that would be of great benefit to students.
• Surveys indicate that Manitobans are prepared to accept school closures when declining student numbers make them necessary.
• Instead of attempting to micromanage schools by implementing a misguided school-closure moratorium, the provincial government should make it easier for parents to send their children to the schools of their choice.
• Schools that focus on student achievement will see enrolment increases, as more parents will send their children to these schools while underperforming schools will have to change their focus or face closure.
• By letting student numbers and parental choice determine which schools expand and which close, the government will encourage educational excellence in Manitoba.
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Michael C. Zwaagstra
is a research fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy who specializes in education policy. He has extensive teaching experience at a variety of grade levels and currently teaches high school social studies in Manitoba. He received his B.Ed., P.B.C.E., and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Manitoba where he won several academic awards such as the A. W. Hogg Undergraduate Scholarship, the Klieforth Prize in American History, and the Schoolmaster’s Wives Association Scholarship. As an educator, Michael is a strong proponent of raising academic standards, holding schools accountable for their results, and expanding the educational options available to parents. His columns promoting common sense education reform have been published in major daily newspapers including the National Post, Winnipeg Free Press, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, and Calgary Herald. He is also a frequent guest on radio stations across the country. His best-selling first book, What's Wrong with Our Schools and How We Can Fix Them, was released in mid-2010.