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Right wing lobbyists won’t be heard in school

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There’s quite a dispute going on between Pat Isaak, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, and Colin Craig, prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It’s a front page story in the latest edition of The Manitoba Teacher. It’s published in a newspaper on dead trees, so it must be true.

Isaak was not happy with an op-ed piece that Craig wrote in the Free Press, in which he juxtaposed declining enrolment with ‘skyrocketing’ costs, due, he said, to teachers getting contract settlements above the rate of inflation.

Isaak not happy? Gasp — who could have foreseen that reaction from the union?

So Isaak invited Craig to come to a school to see what’s really happening there, and to identify which programs the private lobbying organization wants cut.

Craig responded to Isaak by saying he’d go to a school for the afternoon. The morning, though, he’d want Isaak to meet with taxpayers who’ve suffered wage freezes, reduced shifts, or layoffs, while teachers get raises beyond inflation. Craig also said that his organization wants to pay teachers based on (undefined) performance, and discontinue paying ‘sub-par’ teachers the same as those who ‘really bust their butts and deliver great lessons’.

So back it goes into the MTS court, and Isaak takes the challenge, saying she’s willing to meet with taxpayers and defend the value of investing in public schools to produce more grads, more apprentices, more postsecondary students......which, having another look, and acknowledging that the taxpayers’ federation has never taken out membership in my fan club right back to Peter Holle’s day, I’d have to say is not what Craig was dissing.

But, Isaak also says she’s revoking her invite for Craig to visit a school. "Students should not be subjected to someone with such a negative attitude about Manitoba schools and the work teachers do to prepare young people to be future citizens and taxpayers," she told Craig.

And I’m thinking, why not?

Sure, don’t take this dispute into a kindergarten class, but why on earth would Isaak think that it wouldn’t be appropriate for high school students to be exposed to what Craig has to say, and to hear her refute his accusations?

I have two university students who thrived in the public school system and had some of the province’s best public school teachers, two kids who learned to think for themselves. They were perfectly capable in Grade 11 or 12 of hearing various sides of an issue, and making up their own minds, of being able to discern what is realistic and reasonable and what is ideologically-based piffle — why wouldn’t the MTS want the students it’s taught to hear both sides and make up their own minds?

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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