Manitoba government seeks public feedback on education plans

The Manitoba government is looking for feedback from the public on how to move forward with its plans to reform the province’s education system.

Last month, the Progressive Conservative government announced plans to eliminate all but one of Manitoba’s elected school boards, merge school divisions and set up a province-wide education authority.

Read more: Manitoba government reworks education system, eliminates elected school boards

On Tuesday, Education Minister Cliff Cullen said the government is creating a parent engagement task force to allow “Manitobans to be active and engaged in this process.”

The task force will be made up of MLAs, parents, as well as school and community leaders who will shape school community councils and work to find ways to improve parent engagement, Cullen said.

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Cullen said the group will lead 15 regional town halls and host workshops with parent advisory councils and school leaders to explore parental involvement.

“By working with educators, experts and parents, our government is advancing education by building a first-class kindergarten to Grade 12 education system with new schools, increased classroom funding and more say for parents in their children’s educational outcomes,” Cullen said in a government release.

Read more: Manitoba parents share concerns over provincial government’s education plans

A bill before the legislature would replace elected school boards in 37 school divisions — every one except that which governs the French school division. The government says that would make decisions more local and more centralized.

Community councils would be set up at every school to involve parents.

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Instead of the school divisions, there would be 15 geographic regions that would each elect one member to a provincial advisory council.

The council would provide input to a new province-wide education authority, which would consist primarily of government appointees. It would set many education policies and centralize collective bargaining, procurement and workforce planning.

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The government’s plan includes several other changes, including removing principals and vice-principals from the teachers union.

A provincial release Tuesday also said the government is creating several advisory groups to “provide a representative voice in helping advance priority actions.”

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Information on the town halls and the government’s plans is available on the province’s website.

Cullen has previously said the reforms aim to cut $40 million in administration costs, which would be redirected to the classroom.

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

The province’s education reform plans have come under fire from both opposition parties and The Manitoba School Boards Association, which said the approach would make it hard for parents to hold people accountable for education decisions.

The changes, expected to be in place by the summer of 2022, follow a review begun in 2019.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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