The two documents combine for about 500 pages. One, the K-12 Review, contains 75 recommendations covering 10 specific areas. The other document, Bill 64, completely rewrites the Public Schools Act. Both delve into areas that require time to assess, review and ask questions about. Prior to their release, comments were made about a consultation process, after all we know, “the devil is in the details.”
The promised consultation process has begun. Meetings with stakeholders are occurring where more questions and few answers are provided. It is clear that the ramifications of the legislation have not been fully understood before its introduction. Instead of meaningful consultation, by releasing the Education Review findings and Bill 64 simultaneously, it was that “we know best” when it comes to the future of education.
While some parts of the legislation reflect the K-12 Review and its recommendations, others ignore the Commission. This is especially the case when it comes to governance.
Given the sheer volume of pages, the assumption is the vast majority of Manitobans will not read these documents for themselves. Instead, they will rely on reporting of what they contain. With large reforms like this, the tactic is familiar. Inform the public about how changes will make things “so much better” and keep the focus on areas that sound positive. At the same time, ignore or bury the aspects of the Bill you do not want people to pay attention to. Unfortunately, it often works.
As your locally elected school board, our responsibility is to examine any legislation that impacts education. Over the years, Mountain View Trustees have appeared before Legislative Committees to speak to Bills providing our communities’ perspectives and concerns over pending legislation.
The current Bill 64 is different.
In a Bill that removes elected trustees and replaces all school boards with one appointed body, for trustees to speak about the negative side of this piece of legislation, seems self-serving. As a Board, we will speak to the Committee about as many concerns as we can in the few minutes provided. However, it will be the voices of Manitobans that will make all the difference. We encourage you to: #SignUpFor64
Part of our responsibility is to inform our communities about what the Bill, in fact, changes about the current system that remains one of the best education systems in the world. This last statement may surprise you given the number of comments made about students learning in our province. You would think that Manitoba Education is doing an incredible disservice to students given some of the comments made.
The common message we hear from governments is that Manitoba is last in educational achievements in Canada. It is unacceptable and we have to do better. Seeing our students do better is what everyone strives for. However, context matters.
In the last international scoring on Reading, Mathematics and Science (PISA – 2018 found at: https://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/396/PISA2018_PublicReport_EN.pdf) you will find that Canada ranks 6th in the world, tied with Finland. This ranking includes 3 of the top 6 being cities in China. Canada has the best English speaking education system on the planet. Each PISA assessment uses different focus areas when they randomly select 15-year-old students to write them. This particular one (https://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/410/PISA2018-FL-EN.pdf) is focused on Financial Literacy, which affects Math and Reading.
When you look at the Canadian picture, you discover (on page 17) that the range of those meeting expectations, at level 2 or above, within Canada range from 92% in Ontario to 86% in Manitoba. For our province, about 1,300 students wrote this assessment. Yes, Manitoba is at the bottom of Canadian provinces that wrote this test. (You can find our ranking on the tables on page 56 and following.)
Two things to note. One is that when you look at the participating countries – page 57 – you find Manitoba ranks within the top 10 in the world of those meeting expectations.
The other observation is that if we could move the bar for 6% of these 1,300 students who wrote the test, or 78 students, we would be near the top of the Canadian system.
That is the context of the testing, which is the backdrop for these changes. If 80 students did better than they did…would we be talking about this?
Getting back to these two documents. Knowing many will not take the time to read them in their entirety, as a Board we want to provide our communities with information about what is contained within Bill 64.
Mountain View is planning to hold a Virtual Town Hall Meeting on April 6th to provide an overview of the Bill and allow time for questions about the impact it may have. We look forward to your participation.Your voice is essential as these changes are proposed in Manitoba. You can register to speak to the Bill by calling (204) 945-3636 at the Legislature. You can also speak to your MLA, for they will ultimately decide on the changes and passage of this legislation. More information can be found at: http://www.mbschoolboards.ca/localVoices.php.