To residents of Flin Flon, Creighton,Denare Beach,Schist Lake and Cranberry Portage:
Over the last two years, the Government of Manitoba completed a review of public education in Manitoba. The Flin Flon School Division was open to and fully participated in the review, travelling to The Pas for a public consultation meeting then asking the Government for a one on one meeting with the Commission. After spending $1,000,000 on the review it was released on March 15, 2021. On this same day the Government released Bill 64 - The Education Modernization Act. If you read these two documents you have to wonder what the government was reading, they are totally different. We have some huge concerns with this Bill and how it will impact our students and community for the long term, and we believe you should too.
Bill 64 will eliminate school divisions and local school boards throughout the province, making 15 regions instead of 37 boards. Flin Flon will be in a region with The Pas, Thompson and Frontier, this will look familiar to our health region. The region will have the largest landmass in the province and the second highest student population behind Winnipeg, and will be run by one director. Parents will be asked to form School Community Councils in each school, only parents and caregivers with students in that school will vote on who sits on the executive board. This committee will be advising your Principal on the operations of your school. The Director will obtain his direction from the Provincial Advisory Council that will be up to 11 people that are appointed by the provincial government. Only one northern representative will sit on this council to be the voice for the entire north! Our northern communities are vastly different, and one person can’t possibly advocate for all of their individual needs. Also, taxpayers who do not have a child in school will not have a say in how education is decided in their respective region. We lose the voices of elders, grandparents, parents with children out of school and passionate community members who don’t have children.
Another concern is Bill 64 removes the Moratorium on school closures and the amount of time students can ride the bus, so the advisory council can decide at any time to close a school or make changes to bussing without any public consultation. You will not be engaged in any of these changes as you were recently in terms of our proposal to restructure. We listened to every word and your voices were heard.
The Government proposes it will save $40,000,000 with implementing Bill 64. When asked where the savings is coming from they have no concrete answers. Does that mean every division office in the province is closed and the jobs are gone? There have been no answers given to these questions to date. Our senior administration team, who has done an incredible amount of work ensuring safety measures are in place and leading during this pandemic, will simply be let go from their positions. We will lose our local leadership, they will lose their jobs. We are greatly concerned about what not having local voices will mean for school programming, will the Director decide what programs stay or go or is that the decision of the Minister of Education? There are many programs unique to Flin Flon that have been run by passionate teachers and having a local board to support funding , such as Camp Whitney, a right of passage for all grade 6 and grade 8 students. We also support a second to none outdoor education program. Will these things be cut in the future?
The Bill also proposed to centralize all services, a change that impacts the communities as Divisions currently support local businesses and services as much as possible. How much money will leave the area when they start buying everything elsewhere and ship it here? We estimate spending over 1.5 million dollars a year on local goods and services. This will be a huge loss for our local business community.
Manitoba students rate last in test scores in the country, which is the reason for the Governments proposed changes. Like every other province in Canada, 8 out of 10 students actually meet or exceed expectations in Manitoba. The difference between first and last is minuscule. The reason Manitoba scores low is because Manitoba rates highest of all provinces in child poverty, but this Bill does not address how it will help impoverished families.
The Flin Flon School Division is holding a Town Hall on June 1, 2021 at 7:00pm on Zoom to discuss this Bill. The link is on our website at www.ffsd.mb.ca. Please make every effort to attend this meeting if you are concerned about the education of our students. If you cannot attend this meeting but would like more information or have a concern please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 204-923-0808. We will continue to fight Bill 64 on your behalf, but we need your support! Watch for us in the future and let your voice be heard.
Flin Flon School Division Board of Trustees