In an ideal world Question Period would serve its role of holding the government accountable. The Ministers of the Crown would provide answers to the opposition’s questions.
Instead the government deflects, ignores, waxes polemic and ignores each and every question. One government member smirked to me when I raised the issue, “it is question period not answer period.”
That could not have been more obvious today as Education Minister Clyde Jackman refused to answer a phalanx of questions from Interim Liberal Leader Dwight Ball regarding the negative impact that cuts to the “needs based” allocation will have on student learning.
I am just in the door from a meeting with other school council chairs from St. John’s, Paradise & Mount Pearl who are very concerned about what the removal of teachers from the “needs based” part of the allocation model for teachers will mean for students and teachers. Councils are also concerned about the regressive rollback of administrative allocations.
The NLTA said today that “Our members are telling us without hesitation that the reductions to teacher allocations will have direct negative impacts on students.” They say 40% of the cuts to teacher allocations are coming from the “needs based” pot.
The Minister says the cuts will not impact children or classroom teaching. That is utter poppycock and he knows it. Cutting such a large percentage for specialist teachers and administration equates to less time and resources to implement the 21st century learning program, for implementing Safe and Caring Schools, for numeracy/literacy programs and for for physical education programs at a time when government has targeted youth obesity as a significant challenge.
It is undeniable that these cutbacks will impact schools in many tangible and intangible ways as they trickle down from the principal’s office to the classroom.
What I am sensing from fellow school council members is a genuine disbelief that government truly considered what these specific cuts to administration and special needs means to schools and the delivery of programs that this “education government” has shown so much support for in the past.
To add to the problem, council’s are having difficulty getting the real numbers from Eastern District. Principals are differing us to the board for answers to queries about the allocations for this year verses other years or details about the current allocation vs the forecast allocations.
I can guarantee one thing, there will be clamoring for a review to correct this obvious shorted sightedness. Parents and community leaders know full well that the Minister is being disingenuous at best, misleading at the worst.
The best approach would be for government to simply stop denying the impact, and listen to concerns from teachers, administrators and parents to find solutions that do not unravel years of advancement.