by Ken MacDougall
It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to feel like Don Quixote, no longer with lance, and a horse who’d sooner stop for lunch than carry me into another battle. Having been warned well in advance by NDP Education critic Carla Beck that this year’s budget will deliver still another fiscal blow to our schools’ needs, Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division trustees are being forced to accept a budget with positional losses.
Director of Education Robert Bratvold maintains that due to grant losses, the Division made the decision to NOT replace ANY of the 25 retiring teachers and temporary contract holders, so that it could slash just over $2 million from the 2021 / 2022 anticipated budget. Chief Financial Officer Jerrold Pidborochynski had his own dour news to deliver to trustees, noting that grant funding for special needs programs were also down, which will result in an additional shortfall of some $1.2 million. However, the public should be overly alarmed by this news, as in the words of Mr. Bratvold, “Nobody will get laid off.”
Despite both Mr. Bratvold and Pidborochynski’s sugar coating of the reasons behind this educational shortfall, there is no hiding the fact that Boss Hogg, aka Scott Moe, leader of the Descendants of Devine, aka the Saskatchewan Party, are continuing to trivialize and deny their part in the ignoring of educational concerns brought forward by both parents and teachers alike during this pandemic It did not help parents feel any better when the government took its sweet time in elevating teachers to the status of “essential workers”, while making it a point of pride to delay teacher access to vaccination until very late in the school year.
Add to these parents’ concerns was the fact that the Moe cabal appeared to be taking its advice on how to react to the spreading of the virus more from the Yahoo Nation of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, Trudeau haters, thugs professing that Covid was nothing more than a “flu” – or worse, that the events of the last year have been nothing more than a hoax perpetuated by government seeking to exert greater “control” of the behaviour of its unruly citizens demanding “freedom” from “unnecessary, economy-killing lock-downs” and respect for their “right” to transmit the virus in total ignorance of their role-playing in this medical catastrophe.
Despite this government’s inability to live up to its election promises, Scott Moe’s popularity spontaneously elevates with the identification of every transgression in policies – or lack thereof – enacted by his government. Playing the Republican Party version of the “Austerity Game”, the DoD has to date been able to weather the storm that delivery of school budgets such as Saskatchewan Rivers has unleashed public anger and second thoughts even in the “true believers” as to just what kind of “plan of action” the Saskatchewan Party is even following as it muddles from crisis to crisis.
In several of my last few columns, I have quoted Roger Miller and his mid-1990’s thesis that educational disinvestment has brought us to the point of being almost “dangerously unprepared to prosper” – and I know that more than one or two members of the Saskatchewan Party view such thoughts as threatening to their way of doing business. Still, our current economic malaise, whether that’s found in the DoD’s inability to diversify our economy, or failing to get our minds off the “good old days” when non-renewable resource-based royalties allowed us to keep up with the Joneses, provides ample testimony to the reality that the Saskatchewan Party has simply passed its “Best before” date, if it ever had one in the first place.
The reticence with which we approach this needed reform is that we have too many politicians, particularly those on the right of the political spectrum, who believe that as long s we have the good old United States of America as our next-door neighbour and political “partner”, nothing can possibly hurt us so badly that our standard of living will crash around our ears.
This unfettered capitalist dream world fogging the brains of our leaders requires several large buckets of cold water so that reality might again define the central focal point of our discussion. The United States has its own “issues” in President Biden’s attempt to stimulate economic growth with the creative power of intellectual thought generating radical and progress-changing innovation. Cyber-terrorist attacks upon major U.S. businesses and service industries have shown that nation’s potential weakness in addressing what amount to new fronts being opened on the terrorist front, yet STILL the United States has a Republican party combining its own brand of mind-altering drugs Trump=speak that – apparently – has almost 40% of its population believing that the only “true” terrorist attack threatening the destruction of American democracy is coming from the ballot box.
In forging our own methods of revitalizing our educational system, we have to stop pretending that an illiterate America, led by presidents such as Trump who once considered staying the spread of the Covid-19 virus by injecting chlorine-based cleaners into our bloodstreams, and Texas Congressional representative Louie Gohmert maintaining that the Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service could put an end to climate change by simply altering the orbit of the moon, are going to help us to economically survive. The bogeyman standing in the way of our intellectual revitalization is not some pizza and flesh-eating pedophile related to the Clintons or the Rothchilds; it’s our own too-eager willingness to settle for the status quo and a return to some time warp called “the good old days”.
We want our children to be taught, and taught well, by teachers who have a vast knowledge of the curriculum they are given to teach our young, for our children to be exposed to as much of life as they can intellectually comprehend and muster into making themselves better global citizens.
More to the point, we want teacher to have class sizes that allow the teaching of comprehensive subject matter, and still more consultants who can continue to channel new knowledge into their teachings, thus challenging children to learn, as opposed to them grabbing for their phones because things are so “bore-ing”.When you lose 25 persons “en bloc”, as will the Saskatchewan Rivers school division, you’re not just playing around with people “having to do a little more” just to get by; you’re creating a moral sinkhole of delusion in believing that things will be “steady as they go” with the loss of so much learning.
At the moment, only the Catholic school system can “fix” the already identified problem areas within the educational orbit, as they have the option of going to its ratepayers and asking for variation in mill rates to cover increased school budgetary needs. It appears that it is now time for the public school system to regain that power, thus giving voice to trustees who have thought beyond the boundaries of acceptance that Directors of education are presenting to them in their well-trimmed budgets.
The NDP estimates that it would require an additional $160 million or more just to bring our school standards back to what they were in 2007, when the DoD first came to power. These are not the numbers of some “tax and spend” party seeking re-entrance to governing, but in the reality of just how damages we have allowed the educational system to endure.
Trustees know that these shortcomings exist, and it’s about time that they told the public the truth. And having said as such, I would sincerely hope that in the forthcoming elections for school trusteeships, some of these candidates might have the courage to bring this case to the public’s attention.