Last week the province responded to some of the concerns raised by Manitobans regarding the major changes to the education system proposed in Bill 64. The bill proposes to replace the current system of locally elected boards with a central administration. Parent representatives will play a large part in the planning and execution of the plan. A summary of the response follows here:
No schools will be closed as a result of combining existing school divisions into regions. We have committed to building 20 new schools over 10 years. The criteria for school closures remains unchanged as set out in the current Public Schools Act.
Poverty and mental health
Establish a taskforce to work with the Poverty Reduction Strategy, to support the implementation of programs that can better address the challenges faced by some students due to poverty.
Bill 64 supports diversity and inclusion by requiring the Provincial Education Authority to have a Respect for Human Diversity policy that accommodates student activities including “gay-straight alliance” or any other activities that promote a safe and inclusive environment.
Focuses on providing more resources at the classroom level and professional learning and development opportunities for teachers.
Will eliminate inequities resulting from funding imbalances and implement a new funding model that is fair, transparent and sustainable so no matter where you live, your children have access to good education.
Directors of Education (employees of the Provincial Education Authority) will hire any upcoming principal positions across the 15 regions.
Bill 64 facilitates greater opportunities for parent and community engagement that reflects local needs and concerns.
Commits to supporting reconciliation by enhancing all educators’ and students’ understanding of the Treaties, residential schools and Indigenous peoples’ past and present contributions.
Bill 64 facilitates increased parent engagement through the development of School Community Councils and a Provincial Advisory Council on Education. The Manitoba government will be consulting with parents, caregivers, community members and stakeholders on the School Community Councils. We want to ensure that parents and educators are well supported.
Eliminating school boards and top-heavy administration, and implementing stronger parent and community engagement, will create increased public accountability for determining the supports needed for student participation and success.
Diversity of voices
The Provincial Advisory Council on Education will be made up of one parent representative from each of the 15 regions. Every parent of a student that attends a rural or urban school will become a member of the School Community Councils.
There will be no major disruptions to everyday life in the classroom.
Provincial Education Authority board
Board of 6 to 11 members, a majority of whom must be community board members, and a minimum of two parents selected from the Provincial Advisory Council on Education.
School division property (under Provincial Education Authority ownership)
School properties will continue to be used to support local needs, regardless of ownership.
Procurement practices in rural areas will continue where it makes sense so that rural economies do not suffer and jobs are not lost.