Manitoba’s education minister is accusing the teachers union of "providing misinformation and creating unnecessary fear" about the Progressive Conservative government’s plans to overhaul public schooling in the province.
On Monday, Education Minister Cliff Cullen sent the president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society a letter outlining the province’s intentions behind Bill 64 (Education Modernization Act) and critiquing the union’s campaign against it. He also attached a fact-checking sheet from the department of education.
"Sharing false information creates fear, politicizes the classroom, and does nothing to support our leaders, students, and families who need this support now, more than ever," wrote Cullen, in a letter dated June 7.
The minister reiterated claims the province’s K-12 education reforms, including controversial legislation that will replace elected school boards with a centralized authority of government appointees, will redirect money spent on the duplication of administrative services to classrooms.
Critics of the education overhaul, including the teachers union, continue to raise concerns about local voices being silenced without elected trustees, school leaders being removed from the union, and disproportionate representation. Only one of 15 new education regions will encompass Winnipeg, which is home to more than half of Manitoba’s K-12 students.
Cullen, however, defended the province’s plan Monday, saying the new governance model will ensure resources are spread more equitably to rural and northern regions, give parents a greater voice while respecting educators, and protect both teachers and principals as educators by requiring valid teaching certificates.
He added new standardized tests will only be one part of a comprehensive assessment plan, and indicated leaders at regional and school levels will respond to community and unique programming needs.
During a phone call Monday, president James Bedford said the union has been forced to interpret provincial documents, given the minister has yet to agree to a meeting with MTS since January.
"Good communication will go a long way (in) resolving differences," said Bedford, who represents approximately 16,600 public school teachers in the province.
He added the union has been focused on the wording in Bill 64 because that is what will become law, in comparison to the province’s items in its Better Education Starts Today document.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.