In the last year, the pandemic has been tough, but if there is one sector that has worked better than almost any other in this crisis, it’s been the public education system.
As a parent with three kids in public schools (and a fourth at university) I can say that we owe our educators a debt of thanks. School boards, trustees, superintendents, principals, teachers, EAs, bus drivers - they have all done an amazing job, under tough circumstances, keeping our children safe and making sure they keep learning.
They deserve our gratitude, our respect, recognition - and above all, our support.
That’s not happening under the PCs. It should be.
Most school divisions in Manitoba are facing cuts and shortfalls because the PCs will not cover emergency costs from COVID-19. They haven’t even spent the $85-million safe "back-to-school" money from last year.
Now the PCs have brought forward a new law that will completely scrap the public school system as we know it - ignoring months of consultations with parents, educators and others, and their own K-12 review.
The K-12 review recommends keeping school boards with some elected trustees. The PCs are completely getting rid of them.
If you want to know how bad it is, the chair of the Hanover School Division in Steinbach, whose brother is a Conservative MP, says the PCs have decided to "blow up the system" with "no plan to glue it back together."
Instead of locally-elected trustees, and local superintendents, the PCs will appoint everyone who runs the school system, including school principals.
They say they are going to have "parent councils" that will have no real power but will be expected to hire and fire teachers, and make decisions about disciplining students.
This isn’t parent empowerment. This is about firing educational experts and professionals and expecting parents to do the work for free.
We need to be very clear about Manitoba’s test scores. It is not that all Manitoba students are doing badly. At least 80 per cent of students match or do better than those in other provinces. About 15 per cent of Manitoba students really struggle and live in deep poverty.
They are in poverty because their parents may not speak English (they are refugees) or because they have trouble reading. They may be working full-time at minimum wage. Children are often struggling because the education system failed their parents, too.
Maybe - just maybe - it’s the superintendents, principals, teachers, EAs, school trustees, parents and students who are the smart, competent ones. Maybe the real problem is the politicians who have been running the province don’t know the first thing about public education.
Don’t let the PCs get away with this. You can sign up to speak against Bill 64 by calling 204-945-3636. Email your MLAs to let them know you oppose it.
For more information, reach out to my office at firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Boniface constituency report
Dougald Lamont is the MLA for St. Boniface and leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba.