A select few of the Manitoba premier’s staffers, elected officials and employees from the education department make up a board tasked with overseeing the logistics of the Pallister government’s public school system overhaul.

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A select few of the Manitoba premier’s staffers, elected officials and employees from the education department make up a board tasked with overseeing the logistics of the Pallister government’s public school system overhaul.

The official Opposition released a list of members on what the province calls its "education transformation management board" Tuesday, during a news conference held to accuse the government of politicizing education and implementing Bill 64 before it passes.

The Manitoba NDP obtained the names through a freedom of information request for the education minister’s calendar, which includes details about a recurring weekly meeting of the "TMB."

David McLaughlin (clerk of the executive council), Jonathan Scarth (premier’s principal secretary), and Paul Beauregard (then-secretary to the Treasury Board) were among those invited to a TMB meeting Feb. 2.

"This is an internal working group to manage the transformation around K to 12 education. We used the same format, the same positions, when we did health transformation," Education Minister Cliff Cullen said Tuesday.

"Anytime we do a transformation of this nature, we do need all the key players within government fully appreciating what we’re trying to accomplish. So to have the clerk, to have the premier’s principal secretary and to have the secretary for Treasury Board makes complete sense."

The NDP education critic, however, cited the list of 13 names — including what he calls "hand-picked Tory appointments" — as a sign of what is to come under the Education Modernization Act.

"In order to plan well, you need to ensure that you have a diversity of voices. You can’t have singular politically appointed voices making these decisions," said Nello Altomare (Transcona).

The second reading of the controversial legislation, which aims to replace elected school boards with a centralized board made up of government appointees and parent council members, has been postponed until fall.

While the province claims the reforms will empower parents and redirect up to $40 million to classrooms, critic concerns include the possibility an appointed board to be politicized by any government of the day.

On Tuesday, Altomare accused the province of "plowing ahead" with politically driven reforms through the TMB, regardless of public input, noting hundreds of presenters have signed up to speak at the committee stage, during which amendments are proposed.

"There’s a general frustration that the government is choosing to move forward without hearing from teachers and a general frustration that the bill doesn’t really seek to reform education in a way that impacts all teachers and students and faculties positively," said a teacher-librarian from Winnipeg who spoke at the NDP news conference, and only identified herself as Stacey.

Cullen insisted the province has been listening to feedback about Bill 64 through a variety of forums, including through his teacher listening tour, which consisted of 30 school visits.

The parent engagement task force, chaired by MLA Scott Johnson, also a member of the TMB, has run a series of town halls and virtual meetings in recent weeks.

The province can create as many committees as it likes, said Altomare, but ultimately, appointees will make decisions under Bill 64.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

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.