Is Bill 64 What’s Best for Our Community and Our Students?
On March 15, the Manitoba government released information about Bill 64, a bill they claim will “modernize” K-12 education within Manitoba. As a School Board, we are deeply concerned and feel it is important for our community to be aware of what is being proposed. We are concerned how this will impact student learning, the work of teachers, principals and other division staff, and our community. We are also troubled that it removes a long-standing democratic process in our province to elect local community members to have direct impact on public education.
We believe improvements can be made to Manitoba’s Education system and affirm many recommendations made by the Commission on K-12 Education after spending a considerable time listening to all Manitobans. We
believe the Commission report offers some helpful suggestions and we agree that the current education tax based on property assessment needs changing. We are very concerned about the governance plan that is part of Bill 64; it ignores and goes way beyond what the Commission recommended regarding governance of schools.
What are some of the proposals in Bill 64?
1. That locally elected and locally accountable School Boards be replaced by a 6 to 11 member provincially appointed Provincial Education Authority. Instead of having our community choose a board to shape
and guide education in our community, the Minister of Education will appoint this group.
2. That the current role of Superintendent be replaced by a Director of Education that will be an equivalent to a regional manager to implement provincial directives and priorities. This position is chosen by the Provincial Education Authority. These is also no indication in Bill 64 that the Director of Education requires an education degree. Currently, in addition to assessing educational qualifications and
experience, a School Board also considers how well candidates understand and appreciate local values to ensure a good fit for their community.
3. That school Principals will be chosen by the Provincial Education Authority, a group which cannot possibly understand the unique character and needs of each local school and its community, rather than
being chosen by a Board and Superintendent who knows the schools and community well.
4. That the Provincial Education Authority will govern all schools in Manitoba by making school policies about educational matters and school programs and courses. Bill 64 names that a School Community
Council will be established for each of our schools and seeks to convince Manitobans that this will increase parents’ say in their children’s education. The reality is that these councils are not empowered
to make decisions; they are simply advisory groups. They will not have the ability to decide who their school or regional education leaders will be. Educational leadership is key in shaping the values and
culture of the schools and region, adapting programming to meet emerging needs within the community, and in offering a community-based approach to education. School Advisory Councils will only be able to identify concerns and offer feedback. Any meaningful decisions about what happens in our schools will not be made locally; they will be made by a “Provincial Educational Authority” with few or no connections to any local community.
5. That Garden Valley School Division and Western School Division be placed in one joint region that will be governed by the Provincial Education Authority which is composed of government appointed people from across Manitoba. There will no longer be a local board to make decisions for our local schools.
We strongly believe that what’s best for our community, is having locally elected and locally accountable Board members who know the community and advocate for OUR students. Bill 64 proposes a very different and distant approach to shaping education in our area.
Here are some pledges we wish to make to you as a community:
- We will continue to work with diligence and integrity for as long as we serve in our positions (Bill 64 states that all school boards are abolished on July 1, 2022).
- We will continue to advocate on behalf of our students, staff and community. We will be meeting with our local MLA’s, have registered to speak to Bill 64 at the legislation, and will join other school divisions in efforts to convince the government to reconsider.
- We will create information sessions, forums to hear your voices, and offer/suggest tools or ideas so that you can express your opinions related to Bill 64.
- We will make ourselves available to anyone who would like to hear more, ask questions, share their perspective, or explore ways of responding. We are here to represent you. Contact information is available at gvsd.ca
Garden Valley School Division School Board Members
Garry Bueckert, Laurie Dyck, Jake Fehr, Barb Heide, John Klassen, Leah Klassen, Tena Lane, Tash Olfert, Deana