Manitoba seeks feedback on education reform, but NDP says go back to drawing board

The Manitoba government has new plans to consult with teachers, parents and guardians about a major overhaul to the province’s education system.

Education Minister Cliff Cullen says the province is creating a parent task force, creating a number of advisory panels and hosting several town halls to engage with those who have a stake in the system.

This announcement comes after the province announced sweeping changes last month which include dissolving all English language school boards, cutting trustees and doing more comprehensive testing in an effort to improve outcomes for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

“This really is about engaging with Manitobans now to determine what that road map looks like in terms of achieving those goals. There’s a lot of work to do on that front, quite frankly,” Cullen said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The Parent Engagement Task Force will be made up of politicians, parents, and school and community leaders to explore ways to improve parent engagement. 

They will also lead 15 regional town halls and set up school community councils for more local input.

The province says it will also establish advisory panels or teams on inclusive education, poverty and education, curriculum advisory, funding review and student advisory.

‘Not reflective’ of Manitobans: NDP

Cullen wasn’t clear how the input from the public would shape the future of legislation which, if approved, the government says it will allow up to $40 million in savings from administration to go to classroom costs.

Responses from the town halls and parental engagement — or the road map, as Cullen calls it — will hopefully be made public by September.

“Manitobans can be assured that this process will be inclusive, balanced, flexible and transparent,” he said.

Transcona MLA and education critic Nello Altomare says it’s time for the province to go back to the drawing board.

“My inbox is inundated with parents and community members that are saying this bill is clearly not reflective of what we’ve been asking for from this government,” he said.

“They’re up in arms … When you don’t hear your voice reflected, you start really banging on the pots and that’s what they’ve been doing.”

Altomare thinks it’s time to get back to brass tacks and address some of the underlying causes of poor school outcomes, including inadequate housing, child poverty and class sizes that are too big.