I am writing in response to the recent announcement from Minister of Education and Training, the Honourable Kelvin Goertzen. The province has appointed a commission to oversee a K-12 education review in Manitoba.
While a review of public education is a welcome initiative, two matters that may be under consideration in this review are the potential amalgamation of the current 37 school boards in the province and the move to appointed, rather than elected, school boards.
Why does this matter in Flin Flon? It matters because school boards are democratic. They are elected by the communities they serve. This process provides people an opportunity to voice their opinion and vote for what they believe in. We don’t know what a forced amalgamation will look like. It could be the formation of a northern board like healthcare or it could be a provincial board like some provinces.
Given the vast geography of Manitoba, either move will mean Flin Flon will lose its voice at the table. School boards can tailor programs and services to meet the needs of their students. Where will parents turn when they need a school of choice? Where will parents turn when they need a special accommodation for their child? What will a board in Thompson or Winnipeg know about the needs of Flin Flon students?
Over 80 per cent of Manitobans believe that continuing to elect school boards remains an important democratic right. I have heard people say that there are too many school boards in Manitoba and that we could save money by reducing that number. Manitoba is a big province. There are 137 municipalities in Manitoba and only 37 school boards. A reduction would see more community voice lost and when we are talking about the benefit of our children, less is not more. Eliminating school boards would create larger school divisions out of the rest.
This means it becomes more difficult and more costly to provide services to students. Right now in Manitoba, having a locally elected school trustee costs, on average, half a cent out of each tax dollar spent. This means that 96 cents out of every dollar spent on education goes directly to providing students with programs, supports and services. It is very unlikely that a government-appointed school board will operate within a similar budget.
In closing, I am asking each of you to consider the importance of your child’s education. Every trustee of the Flin Flon School Division lives and works right here in Flin Flon. We care about our community and more importantly we care about all of our students. We are committed to providing Flin Flon with the best education we can. We employ dedicated teachers, educational assistants, support workers and we need your help.
Write to your MLA and tell him that you value the community voice when it comes to education. Write to the minister of education and tell him that you want to keep your child’s education in your own hands. Write to the premier of Manitoba and tell him that school boards matter. The Manitoba School Boards Association website has a template letter that community members can use to write to their MLA. Let’s work together to keep the public in public education.
Chair, Flin Flon School Division Board of Trustees