Manitoba throne speech lacks details on education reform: union

The president of Manitoba’s teachers’ union says details are still scarce on long-delayed provincial plans to reform public education.

Part of Manitoba’s throne speech, delivered Wednesday at the start of the new legislative session, focused on education reform.

A report on public education commissioned by the province was slated for public release last March, but the release was paused amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday that report would be made available to Manitobans in the “not too distant future.”

“There’s too much money spent at the top in our education system,” Pallister said. “We need those resources to move to the front line. That’s where they are useful to students and teachers.”

Read more: Manitoba throne speech focuses on education reform, health care and taxes

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Pallister said the reforms would be transformative — the province is earmarking $1.6 billion over four years for the overhaul.

“It would appear that the government wants to put significant resources into their implementation, that the recommendations are going to be transformative to public education, yet I couldn’t tell you what’s in those recommendations yet,” said James Bedford, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society president.

“I’d either like to have that document in my hands, know what those recommendations are, or let’s delay it until we’re through COVID-19… this year in and of itself is transformative, I think we’re learning just how much hard work teachers are capable of doing.”

Bedford said the necessary changes to public schooling amid the pandemic are significant stressors on teachers and students alike.

“I think it would be to the benefit if we could sit down outside of a COVID-19 environment to have a really good, thorough discussion over what those recommendations are,” he said.

Read more: New Manitoba consultant was behind sweeping education changes in Nova Scotia

The Winnipeg School Division’s board of trustees chair said although she wouldn’t be able to comment on much of the throne speech’s mentions of education — as it lacked details on what the education reforms will actually consist of — she did comment on the premier’s criticism of the top-heavy school system.

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“If you want to have good resources and a clear path to teaching and learning you have to actually have people who are planning that,” chair Betty Edel said.

“I’m hoping that there is good thoughtfulness in that, if you want to have these outcomes you have to actually pay administration, plan it, to assess it, to see what’s working well, what needs to be changed.”

The board chair of River East Transcona School Division said he hopes the outcomes of the delayed education review are not political.

“We would like to see the outcomes of the review and hope that its implications are with students’ success as the goal and not for political reasons,” chair Jerry Sodomlak wrote in an email.

Wednesday, the province announced it plans to phase out property education taxes over the next decade.

“The big question remains how education will be funded and how local autonomy will be maintained to support the unique needs of each community,” Sodomlak said.

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Manitoba Speech from the Throne

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