July 6, 2020

25° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us


Education review commission should heed taxpayers' concerns

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/12/2019 (202 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The start of the New Year will provide opportunities for public engagement on your local school division’s budget. School boards will spend the first three months of 2020 consulting with students, parents and citizens, in order to inform local choices for our communities. This is a prime opportunity for you to ensure that your needs, wishes, and values are reflected in these budget decisions. 

The relationship between communities and their local school boards is foundational to both student success and fiscal responsibility in public education in Manitoba. As a parent who wants the best for your child or a taxpayer who wants the best return on investment, the connection between you and your local school board is key.

Strong local school boards continue to demonstrate positive impacts on student outcomes, and for a highly affordable cost — half a cent on every dollar spent on education today. 

Every school board will tailor their annual budget consultation process based on hearing from you, their electorate. At local schools and with parent advisory councils, through round tables or community town halls, and perhaps even through online and telephone surveys, each school board will reach out in an effort to hear from you. 

The context for next year’s budget will be different, however, than in previous years. While your local school board is getting ready to adopt its budget in March, the final report of the Manitoba Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education will also be made public. Both will come with significant impact for the future of our public schools. 

The prospect of forced amalgamations or elimination of local school boards was present throughout the review. Whether it is bigger divisions, fewer trustees or fewer superintendents, many proposals have been studied by the commission. The only firm indication of the future came through assertions made by the government and review commission that "Manitoba is not Nova Scotia and we are not going to do what Nova Scotia did." 

As a reminder, Nova Scotia eliminated its elected school boards overnight, leaving local students, families and staff negatively impacted. By replacing locally informed and democratic decisions with the closed-door meetings of an appointed advisory committee for the entire province, Nova Scotians have quickly discovered that responsiveness of core services has declined and access to key decision makers has also been significantly diminished. 

Elimination of school boards is also being proposed in Quebec, which introduced legislation to this effect in October, alongside of prohibitions on the ability of public servants to wear religious symbols. This combination of legal provisions will have the effect of removing the democratic rights enjoyed by all Canadians.

Other provinces, however, understand the value of elected school boards and what they contribute to strengthening school programs for the advantage of students and communities. Prince Edward Island has recently announced the reinstatement of local school boards to serve its people, and the governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have moved to strengthen the mandates shared by local communities through their elected school boards.

In Saskatchewan in particular, a modern review of school governance demonstrated that efficiencies could be achieved without taking away the rights of communities. 

The experience of our western neighbours is all the more reinforced by Manitoba’s own experience. At the start of the 21st century, 20 Manitoba school divisions were amalgamated, resulting in the 37 elected school boards we have today. But this did not come without significant challenges. The unfortunate reality is that forced amalgamations during the early 2000s resulted in dollars being spent to save dimes, while meaningful reforms, focused on better student achievement and success, were overshadowed by the need to work through the complexities associated with merging formerly independent school divisions into new organizations. 

This holiday season, school boards wish all Manitobans the very best. We invite you to participate in our upcoming budget meetings. At the same time, we also invite you to reach out to your local MLA. Let them know that sweeping change, only for the sake of change, would negatively impact our kids, local schools, and democratic rights.

We cannot let that happen. This does, however, depend upon your voice and your choice being heard today, to ensure that local schools continue to belong to your local communities in the years to come. Manitobans spoke very loudly and very clearly during the K-12 education review: it was undeniable that protecting local school divisions remained a priority for the future. It is important that provincial decision-makers share this same understanding.

Visit www.localvoices.ca to learn more.

Alan Campbell is president of the Manitoba School Boards Association and chairman of the Interlake School Division board of trustees.


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us