The Opposition NDP will delay controversial legislation that aims to overhaul the education system in Manitoba.

The Opposition NDP will delay controversial legislation that aims to overhaul the education system in Manitoba.

NDP education critic (and retired school principal) Nello Altomare said his party will hold back Bill 64 (Education Modernization Act) until the fall, to give parents and education advocates time to read and respond to the 309-page document.

The rules of the legislature allow the opposition to delay five bills from proceeding to second reading until the fall. Bill 64 is the fifth and final bill the NDP has announced it will hold back this year.

The proposed legislation is an "unprecedented power grab," Altomare said at a news conference Wednesday.

Bill 64 would interfere in collective bargaining units for teachers and school staff, and lay the groundwork for deep service cuts and layoffs at schools, the NDP says. It would do away with elected school trustees and, the Tory government says, give parents more say in how their children's schools are run.

Parents don't have the time and aren't equipped to take on more responsibility for the running of schools, a parent council member said at the news conference.

"We do great work with fund raising," said Trish Cooper, whose children attend school in the Winnipeg School Division.

"We do not deal with big budgets, policies, hiring. It's madness to think that a bunch of parents are now going to be able to control the system and help with this stuff," she said. "I really hope that a lot of people get on board and make their voices known that this is insanity."

A public school teacher of 20 years said she has concerns Bill 64 does not recognize the work educators do daily to help students reach their full potential, despite high child poverty rates.

"How can we possibly expect a student to perform well on a standardized test when they’re not sure where their next healthy meal will be coming from?" said Tracy, who attended the news conference but declined to provide her last name or employer.

Tracy said she provides food for two to three students weekly at her school, while she and colleagues clothe about five students, in various capacities, every academic year.

According to a 2019 report from national anti-poverty group Campaign 2000, three federal ridings in Manitoba — Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, Winnipeg Centre, and Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa — rank among the top five areas with the highest child poverty rates in Canada.

Bill 64 does not mention the word "poverty" in its 309 pages.

— with files from Maggie Macintosh

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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