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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The distribution of educational services in Manitoba: an analysis of the effects of provincial policies, with proposals for change Coleman, Peter Edward Fowler

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to determine to what extent inequalities in the distribution of educational services exist in Manitoba, and, should extensive inequalities exist, to propose ameliorative policies to provincial policy-makers. Inequalities are considered to exist when access to services varies consistently, on a basis other than need, for students in the province. Since unitary school divisions are the administrative units responsible for providing educational services to the great majority of public school students in Manitoba, and since variations in administrative unit size have been associated with variations in service provision in other jurisdictions, the method adopted is to present data on 10 different educational services and resources, by size of school divisions. This presentation shows that students in larger school divisions, which are generally urban, have substantially higher levels of access. These vary by service, but the direction of advantage or disadvantage is constant. There is no evidence that the discrepancies are positively associated with need differentials. The second portion of the study examines the financial aspects of existing inequalities in access to services. The financial statements of school divisions reveal that small divisions generally spend less per student, and that a larger proportion of their expenditures is directed to support services. Thus expenditures on instruction are very substantially lower in those divsions providing relatively low levels of service. Only an increased share of provincial resources seems likely to give thern the financial power to improve the provision of educational services. A series of policy objectives and standards is developed, against which the probable output of policy proposals in financing can be evaluated. The first objective is "resource equalization", and the standard required is a reduction in the current range in revenues and local effort of divisions. The second objective, "adaptive capacity", requires that policies be readily adaptable to changing needs, and that an information system be available to signal changes in needs, service levels, and financial characteristics, and thus monitor progress towards equality of educational opportunity. The proposal of policies intended to further these objectives is constrained by an important characteristic of educational administration in Manitoba, the provision for local autonomy in decision-making. The proposals for provincial funding are of the "inverse allocation" type. To achieve equaIization objectives while at the same time providing for a diversity of expenditure patterns and levels, at the discretion of local decision-maker's, the proposal provides for three types of grants: categorical grants; basic grants per pupil; and equalization grants, inversely proportional to division wealth. The final section of the study also establishes equalization and adaptive capacity as objectives in the provision of services, and proposes a system of regional educational service agencies, to provide those services which divisions are not large enough to provide effectively and economically for themselves. Again, local autonomy acts as an important constraint. The study asserts that major changes in provincial financing of school divisions, and less sweeping changes in administrative structures, can increase the power of local authorities to change the distribution of educational services in Manitoba. Because decision-making will continue to reside with local authorities, no guarantee can be offered that the policies proposed will actually change the distribution of services in the province. However, should the policies proposed here be adopted, the proposed data system will allow provincial policy-makers to monitor progress towards equalization continuously, and thus to evaluate the actual output of the policies.

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