Monday, November 1, 2010

What will the new Minister bring?

Last week's announcement of a cabinet shuffle was certainly good news for children, parents and teachers. Margaret MacDiarmid seemed to have little care or thought to the education portfolio and gave little of her time to talk to those directly involved. Her twenty minute speech to the BC School Trustees Association had more to do with healthcare than Education, and teachers had great difficulty even getting meetings to discuss issues with the Minister.

So it comes as some relief that the new Minister of Education is George Abbott. He has a reputation of at least listening and talking to stakeholders within the community. This would be a welcome change from the last three Ministers.

Of concern is Abbott's history of amalgamating health boards - a portent of amalgamation of school districts on a grand scale? Certainly local communities are much better served when they are able to be participants in decision making about services directly in their communities. Large regional Board do not serve this purpose, and instead isolate the decision makers and eliminate their accountability to the constituents they serve.

Also worrisome is Mr. Abbott's history with privatization and schemes to contract out and privatize components of the health care sector.

Perhaps his status as one of eight MLA potentially under threat from recall will inspire him to really listen and pay attention to those who work with children everyday about what changes are needed and how to implement them so that they work. And perhaps the Liberals are finally hearing the cries from the field about the serious funding shortfalls and how desparately school Boards need the proper inputs (funding) if we want to achieve better outputs (student success).

Let's hope so.

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