April 10, 2020

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Opinion

Education conversation will continue past review deadline

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/5/2019 (314 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On May 25, the commission for the review on K-12 education in Manitoba held its 11th and final consultative workshop at R.B. Russell Vocational School in Winnipeg. Consistent with the other workshops held in southwest and northeast Winnipeg, Carman, Steinbach, Brandon, Dauphin, The Pas and Thompson over the month prior, hundreds of Manitobans from all walks of life came out to have their voices heard.

Indeed, it would be a reasonable estimate that more than 2,000 people cumulatively attended the workshops. My participation at all but three of these sessions will undoubtedly remain a highlight of my career as a school board trustee in Manitoba.

For every similarity among the various perspectives shared in each of the communities by local parents, teachers, school leaders, community members and trustees, there were many more unique and community-based insights that must now be reflected in the outcomes and recommendations of the review. Every school community in this province is actively working on opportunities associated with poverty reduction, mental-health strategies and equitable access for all students, just to name a few.

The message for the commission has been crystal clear: this review must result in meaningful change for the benefit of all students and all communities. As Manitobans, we should rightly expect that when the commissioners and Dr. Avis Glaze sit down to write their report, the content therein will be a true reflection of what they heard.

On more than one occasion, those of us in attendance were pleased to hear commissioners remark openly at the consultation workshops that "the feedback they are receiving will inform the outcomes of the education review." For the sake of our students, families, staff and communities throughout Manitoba who rely on our locally governed public education system, I remain cautiously optimistic that those assurances will come to fruition, and that the provincial government will consider those recommendations accordingly.

With the deadline for formal engagement with the commission passing today (May 31), no Manitoban can say that they didn’t have a chance to participate, because there have been ample opportunities to do so through various formats both traditional and technological. The concern, however, is that many still have not stepped up to have their voices heard.

Please keep in mind that even once the deadline has passed, the time for conversation about public education in this province is not over; rather, it has only begun. Topics such as the aforementioned on poverty, mental health and wellness, inclusion of all students and the importance of local voices making local choices are all important and deserve a highlighted role in our collective consciousness.

The commission has made clear its intent to host public hearings in June, dependent upon the number of advance briefs it receives as a form of pre-registration for the hearings. But over and above the work of the commission, when I talk about the continuation of a conversation that lasts long after the consultations are over, I am talking about the next provincial election, which has all but been called.

Premier Brian Pallister has made it clear that he intends to call an election in 2019. To say that Manitoba’s education community is pumped up as the education review’s consultation process draws to a close is, by all accounts, an understatement. What Manitobans should expect now, unlike most previous provincial elections, is a platform for candidates to answer questions about, you guessed it, education!

Candidates of all stripes will by vying for an opportunity to sit in the legislative assembly in the spring of 2020 when the report and recommendations of the education review are presented to the minister of education. On this basis, for the first time in a long time, it is time that education be an election issue in this province.

As categorically non-partisan, locally elected bodies, Manitoba’s school boards will continue to advocate for the needs of their own communities throughout the provincial election campaign. Energized and engaged, having just contributed in a crucial way to the education review’s consultation process, trustees have an important message for candidates and voters alike: if you have children or grandchildren in school, pay property taxes, or have an interest in the future of your community, it is time to listen to what they have to say. Visit localvoices.ca to learn more.

Alan Campbell is president of the Manitoba School Boards Association.

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