Globe’s Radwanski thinks McGuinty’s “education record” key to re-election in 2011

What is it about so many Canadian professional journalists that they feel they have to continually promote Liberal governments, even when they are doing a bad job of governing? And, yes, the McGuinty-led Liberals have done a bad job of governing Ontario, particularly given the number of e-Health-like boondoggles, wind energy and other money sucking green initiatives, the HST and other tax increases (e.g. the health premium and eco-taxes come to mind), as well as ever rising hydro rates. In fact, the Ontario Liberals have taken Ontario from “have” to “have not” status in just a few years, requiring equalization payments be returned to Queen’s Park. Meaning, that Ontario is no longer the economic engine of Canada. 

Yet, plugging for the Ontario Liberal Party is exactly what Adam Radwanski seems to be attempting in today’s Globe and Mail (H/T Catherine). I say “seems to be attempting” because, while he does provide several reasons for the McGuinty Liberal government to stress their record on education in order to get re-elected in October 2011, he also presents several caveats as to why that may not happen.  And, on those points, I would agree.

Endnote: Post shortened on Friday, December 23rd, 2010. C/P at Jack’s Newswatch.

Is McGuinty gov’t “inclusive” with parent advocacy stakeholders?

On the main Government of Ontario web page for the full-day kindergarten, now referred to as the Early Learning Program (ELP for short), you will find the following “principles” listed.

  1. Early development launches children’s trajectories for learning
  2. Partnerships with parents and communities are essential
  3. Respect for diversity, equity and inclusion are prerequisites
  4. A planned program supports early learning
  5. Play is the means to early learning
  6. Knowledgeable and responsive educators are essential

Regarding Item (2) “partnerships with parents and communities are essential,” I would like feedback from Ontario parents and parent advocacy groups to find out if Ontario’s governing Liberal Party practices what it preaches when it comes to “inclusiveness.” Or, is it only inclusive about parents on paper or with those organizations who agree with everything their Cabinet and Minister of Education suggests?  

For example, which parent groups are considered stakeholder groups and asked for advice and which are not? If there is supposed to be respect for communities regarding the ELP, shouldn’t that include all parent advocacy groups? 

Specifically, I frequently read that Annie Kidder of People for Education (P4E) is invited to participate in just about every manner of Ontario education-oriented consultation there is even though P4E clearly is a private, not-for-profit advocacy/lobby type of organization. Moreover, P4E seems to hold a special status, given that they are listed at the bottom of this Ontario government page, in the same category as the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education and the Ontario Federation of Home and Home and School Association.

Yet, apparently, from what I understand, neither Doretta Wilson, the Executive Director of the Society for Quality Education (SQE), also a parent advocacy not-for-profit organization, or its Board Chair, Malkin Dare, have ever been invited to any sort of meaningful consultation regarding Ontario Ministry of Education issues — which seems to me is hardly fair or inclusive.

Perhaps Ms. Kidder from P4E and Ms. Wilson from SQE could start a dialogue here, or members of their respective boards and supporters. I can assure those who do decide to participate here will be treated with respect by me and other commenters, although we may agree to disagree sometimes. However,  I honestly want to know how the current Ontario government makes the decision as to which parent advocacy group can be considered a stakeholder and which can’t — and why they can’t. (H/T Catherine)

While I plan to send an e-mail invitation with this URL via both P4E and SQE’s websites, visitors could also leave a comment on their respective blogs as well.

McGuinty gov’t made school board trustee powerless

I want all Ontarians to know, but particularly professional journalists and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, that the changes the McGuinty government made to the Education Act through the “Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act, 2009,” has made the role of elected trustee completely and utterly meaningless.

For example, read the “Making a Difference for Kids: Running for Election as a School Board Trustee.” It is not a long document but there are truths hidden in plain sight within its pages. Specifically, while there are a lot of motherhood statements about how important trustees are to school boards in terms of accountability and mediating among conflicting interests and values, there is even more about how elected trustees are simply one member of a “team” and that once the “team” makes a decision, individual trustees should be seen and not heard.

I mean, everyone knows a school board is a “team.” But, what we haven’t really understood is how the legislation is now essentially about conformity and acquiescence — the very antithesis of democracy. For example (my highlighting):

“School trustees are the members of the District School Board. They are locally-elected representatives of the public, and they are the community’s advocate for public education.” (Page 4)

Only the team (the Board), not an individual trustee, has the authority to make decisions or take action. A school board must place all students first when making any decision.” (Page 4)

Trustees are required to uphold the implementation of any board resolution after it is passed by the board. In exercising their role, they are required to comply with the board’s code of conduct.” (Page 4 — What code of conduct?)

“Under the Education Act trustee power lies solely in membership on the corporate school board. As members of the corporate board, trustees are legally accountable to the public and the Minister of Education for collaborative decisions of the board…This means that once the Board has voted, it is a trustee’s responsibility to act in a manner that promotes and upholds the board’s decision and to communicate the board’s decision back to the constituency.” (Page 7)

“Acceptance to serve on a school board assumes an awareness of the legislated expectations and responsibilities conferred through legislation, provincial policy, contractual agreements or any other mechanism. Trustees must act within these parameters, and be aware of the consequences of decisions that don’t respect these commitments. “(Page 7 What consequences?) 

So, a rhetorical question might be: What good is electing a trustee based on what the candidate communicated during his or her campaign?  I mean, if a board wants to close a school, just how much can a trustee say or do? It would appear, not much if the board as a whole has already voted to close it.

In effect, then, the McGuinty Liberal government has made the role of school board trustee absolutely powerless — nothing more than window dressing. And, is that erosion an “attack on democracy?” You bet it is and Ontarians need to deal with it in the Ontario provincial election in October 2011 — by booting the McGuinty crew out!

Update: Article revised slightly on September 6th, 2010.

Former Premier Harris to get honorary doctorate!

Congratulations Dr. Michael Harris! You deserve all the accolades coming your way. In fact, they are long overdue. And hopefully, so it will be, that on Friday, June 11th, 2010 at 11am, former Ontario Premier Harris will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Nipissing.

Ontario Union of Natives Complain

Yet, the Union of Ontario Natives have denounced the honour because of “Mr. Harris’s treatment of natives in Ontario, pointing to the death of protester Dudley George, the removal of land-tax provisions and cutbacks to social programs.”

Why the bias and double standard?

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Ontario & BC gov’ts vs teachers’ unions

Occasionally, when a post at my Crux of the Matter blog is about provincial politics, I will cross-post it here for BT visitors to read. It starts:

Teachers unions are always running a political campaign against something. In Ontario, its been report cards, trying to have fewer. In B.C., its been about standardized testing, trying to have none at all. In Ontario, parents have no doubt that the testing issue is surely the next battleground.

So, what is it all about, other than teachers’ unions simply battling government and parents so their members can earn more money for doing less? I mean, even as a former teacher and teacher educator, that is what it looks and sounds like to me.

Moira MacDonald has a column today in the Toronto Sun. She follows the Ontario education situation pretty closely and seems to think that the teachers’ union did not win everything they wanted in the battle of the report cards. What they wanted were two annual report cards instead of three — by dropping the fall report. What they got were two report cards and one fall “progress report.”

More at Crux of the Matter.