Vague Manitoba education report announcement detailing only release date a further ‘gut-punch’: school boards president

The president of the Manitoba School Board Association says the province’s announcement Friday, to announce the release of a long-awaited Education Reform report Monday, means teachers and administrators will be anxious all weekend.

An audibly frustrated Alan Campbell told 680 CJOB Friday that everyone has been waiting for a year for the report, and not having it released last year was already a “gut-punch.”

“We had an announcement about another delay, so what he basically said to everyone in education today is ‘I know you’ve all been waiting with anxiety between the combination of waiting for the review and the stresses of a global pandemic, but I’m just going to pour gasoline on that fire of your stress and anxiety from all of those different things, and then just let you fester for the weekend,’” he said.

The report was supposed to be out last year, but was shelved when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

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Education Minister Cliff Cullen said Friday the report blends recommendations from the commission with lessons learned during the pandemic and seeks to create a “student-focused” system.

“Our system spends some of the highest in the country on education, however we see results near the bottom of provincial and international assessments,” Cullen says.

“We know our students are falling behind, and we need to do better.”

Read more: Education review to look at reducing, eliminating elected school boards in Manitoba

The minister said the government views administrative spending as disproportionately high, and that money would be better spent on the “front lines” in the classroom.

He wouldn’t comment on whether or not that means there would be a reduction in the number of school divisions, something that Premier Brian Pallister has repeatedly floated as a way to decrease administration costs.

“He continues to evade the question, which screams ‘Why did we have this conversation this morning if it’s just going to be a bunch of non-answers?’” said Campbell.

Cullen largely avoided delving into any specifics of the report but said some of it was already tied to pending legislation, which is going to be reviewed by MLAs before being released to the public.

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Read more: Manitoba government delays education report over COVID-19 uncertainty

“(The review) will lay out the plan and vision to equip teachers and administrators with the tools they need to be successful, build consistency and coherence across the province, direct more resources to teaching and learning, and give parents opportunities to be much more involved in the children’s education,” Cullen said in a news release.

It’s expected to come down at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Campbell said the province has been engaged when it comes to the COVID-19 response, despite the province’s concerns about “30-plus entities out there” managing their own way through the pandemic.

“But when it comes to consultation about what they’re planning to do to the system while this global pandemic changes it forever, no, zero, no interest whatsoever in talking about the review,” he said.

“No interest in acknowledging the fact that connectivity issues and child poverty issues have just been completely exacerbated by this pandemic and the province is completely ill-equipped to deal with it.”

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Manitoba education getting first comprehensive review in 50 years – Jan 23, 2019

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