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Ed announcement raises questions, concerns for MVSD

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The Manitoba government released its Kindergarten to Grade 12 strategy last week and Mountain View School Division (MVSD) is trying to nail down just what it means for the future of education in the area and across the province.
While everyone knew the results of the education review were coming, MVSD board chair Floyd Martens said the province’s announcement was a surprise to most.
The government’s plan “streamlines administration” by unifying 37 school divisions into one Provincial Education Authority, while maintaining the French school division, Division Scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM). The authority will deliver Kindergarten to Grade 12 education, manage shared administrative services such as collective bargaining, procurement, IT and workforce planning. Under the province’s plan, money saved - the government expects up to $40 million - will be reinvested directly into classrooms.
“It’s raised lots of questions actually, more than answers at this point,” Martens said.
“Bill 64 really rewrites the whole Public Schools Act. It replaces it plus a few other acts. There are many areas in it that raise a number of questions about what this would look like, how would it actually happen. Probably the most challenging one as a board is just the whole sense of communities do not have a voice in what takes place, at least a meaningful voice. That’s disturbing. You are able to recommend, advise, but have no decision making power on anything that happens. It will be the provincial education authority, they’ll make those decisions.”
Martens is also skeptical about the province’s claim that parents will have involvement that is more meaningful in local decision-making through new School Community Councils, considering the wide range of areas school boards are involved in from evaluations of students to construction and transportation issues, to name a few.
“There’s such a whole raft of things that boards are actively engaged in the conversation and decision making and discussion about and raising the questions from communities,” Martens said.
“To then have every school in Manitoba do that? But because it’s only a recommendation process I wonder.”
Those doubts are magnified when considering how much the province’s announcement actually differs from the review recommendations. In terms of governance, for example, the review talked about a reduction to eight school boards comprised of a mix of elected trustees and appointed trustees to ensure fair representation, not the elimination of all boards as announced by the government.
“You put in place a commission that hears from thousands of Manitobans and then you put in legislation that doesn’t pay any attention to the recommendations. That doesn’t make sense to me,” Martens said.
“When government doesn’t listen to the blue ribbon commission that you put in place to address K to 12 education, you don’t listen to their recommendations, how much are you going to listen to each of the 700 schools in the province?”
According to the province, the 75 recommendations of the commission contained in its report represent the most extensive reformation of Manitoba’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system in decades and presents a clear plan of action for becoming the most improved education system in Canada.
Within the next five years, the provincial government committed to becoming the most improved education system in Canada by:
• shifting resources to the classroom to ensure that student learning and achievement come first;
• ensuring that teachers, school staff and leaders have the capacity, knowledge and tools they need to support student performance;
• unifying the education system with a focus on accountability for results, outcomes and addressing the vast disparities in the system;
• giving parents and caregivers more opportunity to participate and play a meaningful role in the design and oversight of the system; and
• considering the provincial needs and ensuring that all students are ready for life-long success regardless of where in the province they live.
Martens said the division is currently examining the report and the legislation and preparing a presentation when the legislation goes to committee.
“We would encourage as many people as possible to sign up, phone in to speak to the bill, there’s opportunity for submissions, as well,” he said.
“We’ll be working on our response or some things that we’ll want to address, but encouraging people to be part of that process and responding and raising concerns and raising their voice. Ultimately it’s going to be more than trustees advocating for elected boards to remain. It’s more communities saying do we want to have a strong representation, a voice about education, do we want a say who represents? I think that’s the decision people have to make on this.”
In the meantime, Martens said, MVSD will continue to inform the division’s families about the legislation and the possible effects on their child’s education.
“People need to know that the board of trustees is still going to be here for as long as we were able to be here, and still working on behalf of our students and communities to represent them and their voices,” he said.