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Fewer School Divisions, Cuts to Administration May Be Part of Manitoba School Reform

March 12, 2021 6:09 PM | The Canadian Press

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By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Cliff Cullen

Spruce Woods Progressive Conservative candidate Cliff Cullen speaks during an announcement outside the Health Sciences Centre, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kelly Malone)

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government says its long-awaited plan to reform kindergarten to Grade 12 education will be released Monday with the aim of improving student learning and cutting administration costs.

“We would like to take some of the money that we’re spending on the administrative side (and) get that to the front line where we think the students need it best,” Education Minister Cliff Cullen said Friday.

The Progressive Conservative government set up the review in 2019 and has repeatedly hinted that changes could include a sharp reduction in the number of school divisions. There are currently 37, including six English-language divisions in Winnipeg.

Nor has the government ruled out eliminating elected school boards and replacing them with a provincewide advisory council.

The government’s lead consultant on the review, Avis Glaze, recommended that change in an earlier review done for the Nova Scotia government, which followed through on the advice.

Glaze’s recommendations in Nova Scotia also included removing school principals and vice-principals from the teachers union and creating a licensing body with the power to discipline teachers.

The Manitoba School Boards Association said it is concerned elected school boards might be eliminated. The group said local elected boards are needed so that people can ask questions about education in their home communities.

“Imagine what their recourse is, if they have to take up their concerns with someone who lives two hours or three hours away,” said association’s president Alan Campbell.

The review also was tasked with finding ways to improve literacy, graduation rates and test scores in math and science. Changes to the format and frequency of standardized tests was one topic put up for consultation.

Findings of the review were supposed to be made public last year, but it was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Opposition New Democrats said any changes made by the government won’t be about providing more money to schools.

“Education is underfunded in Manitoba and the review is not going to address the chronic underfunding, the structural underfunding, of education,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

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