Manitoba's Premier has responded to criticism that our province's new education system will eliminate the local voice.
Our Education Minister announced on Monday that school boards will be done away with, but School Community Councils created. Premier Brian Pallister says through this they are empowering principals, educational leadership and School Community Councils to have way more power and influence than they had in the past.
When asked whether the democratic aspect of the school system has just been removed, Pallister responded by suggesting we as Manitobans also do not vote for our doctor, our dentist or the store we shop at.
"We choose our services with the best interest of our children and our families in mind," says Pallister. "And that's exactly what we have the right to do in Manitoba with our schools."
Pallister says parents will tell you that if there is a problem with their child, it is not the trustee they will go to, but their teacher. And, if there is a problem with their teacher, they go to the principal, not to the top of the education system.
Pallister says he means no disrespect to trustees, noting he has friends who are trustees and says their caucus is made up of former school teachers and trustees.
"We don't need trustees now because there's not going to be the need for bargaining, because we're going to centralize the bargaining so that teachers don't have to spend their time out of class going and negotiating with trustees on their wages in dozens of different school divisions," he says. "And secondly, the tax setting on education tax will no longer be done at the local level."
According to Pallister, Manitoba is one of the last provinces to remove the setting of education taxes from the local level.
"Keeping school trustees to train them to become city councillors in Winnipeg or MLAs is not a smart use of money," he says. "We'll take the millions of dollars that we'll save, we'll move it to the schools, to the teachers and to the children on the front line, that way our system will work better for our kids."
Pallister says if the solution to having a better education system was to have more trustees and more superintendents, then Manitoba is already doing that, yet is still in last place.
Meanwhile, our Premier has shed more light on what the role of School Community Councils could look like. He notes their responsibilities will include the following:
they will be responsible for assessing the effectiveness of programming at the school.
they will analyze the student achievement learning outcomes.
they will determine areas of focused improvement.
the principal must be accountable to them, must attend their meetings.
the meetings will be open to the public.
the need to evaluate the performance of any person employed at that school will be within the advisory powers of the community councils.
capital construction projects, when they are proposed at the school site, they will get to overview those, they will get to see the proposed annual budget, they will get to see the monthly expenditures.
on changes in school programming activities, the community councils will have a role to play there, a significant role.
transportation of students, the use of suspensions and expulsions as disciplinary tools, they get to have input into that.
policies implemented at the school.
and most importantly, encouraging the involvement of parents in the education of children by expanding the involvement of other parents in the parent councils.