A step by step review about the Better-Education-Starts-Today report: It mostly sucks, but has some valid points

by Cookie

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

So, after reading through the “Better Education Starts Today” report I have a few comments. This whole thing has really chapped my ass if I’m being really honest, and I’m fairly sure I have only scratched the surface of the details. Not all of the changes are as fucking terrible as I thought they’d be, and a few actually make a bit of sense. Others are terrific conversation starters.

Really, that’s what this report should have been. A conversation starter. Instead, we have a Premier with an agenda that seems to include dismantling and privatizing a whole bunch of things before he retires. The scary thing is that for someone who we know is not actively seeking re-election and has a majority government, there is little accountability and those of us in opposition feel like we have no leverage to inspire a better way.

There is a lot to unpack here, but here are a few of the things in the report that stood out to me:

“With 37 different governing bodies it was difficult to be agile and respond quickly, yet that is what Manitobans
expected and needed.”
(during Covid)

Excuse me, but teachers, parents and school administrators cried, begged for, screamed for and deserved real direction from the province about how to address the lockdowns, school reopening, lack of resources, lack of space, lack of unity, lack of competency and apparent lack of fucks given by our provincial government over the course of the pandemic. They literally just threw their hands in the air and told the divisions to figure out their shit, which left them scrambling and likely compromised safety for students and staff. But it was obviously because there were 37 divisions. WHAT SHIT.

“Parents and caregivers played an important role during COVID-19, yet they struggled to access information
about changes and to inform and influence decisions.”

We lacked access to information because our government didn’t provide what we needed. It constantly changed and contradicted itself and was confusing. The government had months to get their shit together and just did not do their job.

“COVID-19 affected student engagement and learning differently, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work
now or for the future.”

Well, interestingly enough, that seems to be exactly what the government wants to do. Standardize every classroom. Standard test, standard methods. They want everyone to play the same game with the same amount of skill and talent, but some of kids are on astro-turf, some are on wet grass, some are in a fucking mud puddle and a whole bunch of others are almost underwater.

“Retain two boards to oversee the delivery of education: a newly created Provincial Education Authority
(appointed members)”

I am all for a provincial education board as long as the representatives are education professionals that are NOT appointed by the governing political party, but rather nominated by the Manitoba Teacher’s Society and elected by them AND have specific terms of service.

“Manitoba needs a fair and sustainable funding model. We are the only province to set taxes at the school division
level. This means some divisions collect more revenue than others. Since education property taxes comprise 42%
of all education funding it leads to disparities in funding for schools and outcomes for students.”

This is so fucking stupid and such an easy fix. Taxes in general are collected on a rate level, either a portion of your income or according to property values. Continue to collect taxes in the same manner, but divide it equitably among the divisions. Meaning that (CLUTCHING PEARLS) those who are more well off will be supporting those who aren’t, levelling the playing field. Part of the price of living in a nicer, bigger house is that you will have to help to care for the well being of others less fortunate. All in the name of standardized education.

“To improve student outcomes, the Commission recommended focusing on deep implementation of the existing
K to 12 curriculum, including a focus on foundational knowledge, skills and abilities students should have when
they finish high school”

Ok so, this is a terrific goal. EVERYBODY wants the kids to succeed and improve. You know what helps kids learn? Not being hungry, or sad or scared or hurt. Anyone who has ever worked with children should understand that children who don’t have their basic needs addressed will struggle no matter how many curriculum meetings you have or how often you discipline a teacher. Address the poverty, address the social issues, and the children will have a better chance to succeed.

Not only that, but find creative ways to teach the same concepts and skills and help kids develop good learning behaviours. Make music study a priority in early years to support literacy and numeracy while giving children the ability to focus and develop consistent work habits. Help them WANT to come to school.

“Learning environments for Indigenous students must infuse culturally and evidence-informed strategies that
embed Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. Students need to see themselves reflected in the space
and in the texts they interact with by incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being in classrooms. “

This is one part of the report I mostly agree with. I would argue that this education needs to be included in all curriculum to create empathy and understanding of Indigenous issues so that we can begin to change the perception and see the value in the culture and traditions of our Indigenous peers.

“Establish a taskforce, in connection to the Poverty Reduction Strategy, to examine the linkages between
poverty and education and support the implementation of strategies to improve engagement and outcomes
for all students.”

THIS. Nothing should really be moving forward until this happens and there are clear goals and plans in place to reduce poverty in this province. Otherwise we will chase our tails for the rest of ever.

“Build a provincial system of remote learning”

Well they’ve finally seen the light have they? There are many situations where a child may need to be out of school for a while, a parent may not be equipped to homeschool and they need education support. This should have been in place in September 2020, but what the fuck do I know? I’m just a a lowly potential candidate for a community council….

“In recognition of the importance of local voice in education, Bill 64 incorporates a number of changes to increase
parental and community engagement by replacing informal parent councils with a School Community Council
(SCC) for every school. The role of the School Community Council is to advise the school principal on school
matters, including the needs of the community it serves and strategies for improving student achievement and
well-being. All parents and caregivers of that school community will be members and they will elect an executive
to work with the principal on matters impacting the school community. This will require a renewed emphasis on
engaging parents and communities so that they are reflective of the diversity of schools.”

You guys, I just don’t know about this. I believe parents should have a voice, but I find it completely inappropriate to give parents this kind of leverage over the school. We should be able to trust the educators and the professionals to take care of our children the way they always have. And unfortunately this will not be the same opportunity across all communities. Parents who work shift work or single parents with young children will find it difficult to serve on these boards. Communities that have a lot of housing instability could potentially struggle with inconsistent representation and inability to make the commitments needed for these boards to be effective. It means that schools in highly privileged and wealthy areas will thrive in terms of their voice, and those who are already marginalized will not have a strong voice. It sounds like an enormous responsibility, the work is unpaid and the folks getting involved won’t necessarily know anything about classroom dynamics, structure or needs. And the thought of parents being able to discipline a teacher gives me the fucking willies. It’s inappropriate and foolish. A parent’s voice is important, but should not carry more weight than the professionals who dedicate their lives to our kids. What a joke.

Do better, Cliff. It’s a shit start with some actual potential. Hear what the critics are saying instead of what your puppet master is demanding.