1.204.673.2401 office@brendawaskada.ca

March 2, 2021

Dear Minister,

We, the Waskada School Parent Advisory Council, are writing regarding the uncertainty and lack of
transparency surrounding Bill 64 and the recent talk of educational reform in Manitoba. As parents of students
in rural Manitoba, the plans of your government to reform our education system are of great interest to us,
and the secrecy surrounding Bill 64 causes us great concern.
Though the changes your government proposes to make have not yet been defined, we have reason to believe
that amalgamation and centralization of school boards is a piece of the reform. In 2002, Bill 14, The Public
Schools Modernization Act, was adopted leading to the amalgamation of many school divisions in Manitoba.
Discussions that have surrounded Bill 64, as well as comments by Premier Pallister in recent news broadcasts,
suggest that further centralization may be in the plans. We must urge you NOT to take these steps. We urge
you NOT to take away our local school board. We urge you NOT to take away our local voice and local choice,
as this is essential for our students, our communities, and a basic right for every resident of Manitoba. We
have elected you as our government to hear our voices. We ask that you listen carefully to our concerns.
As a nation, and as a province, we are facing head-on the negative effects of our past mistakes – of stripping
communities of their right to make decisions that are best for their people. The ideas of modernization,
progress, and reformation do not always lead down a better road. Do not make the same mistakes again. Let
us learn from the past and be honest about the consequences of our actions when we seek to “reform” our
province. Amalgamation of our school boards in the name of progress, might very well lead to a loss of
quality education in Manitoba. For us as rural Manitobans, it will lead to poor representation of our small
rural schools, and ultimately the death of our rural schools. History shows that the closures of rural schools
result in the death of our rural communities. In turn, the death of our rural communities in Manitoba would
harm the province in every facet of its society.
Local school divisions are essential to quality education. The representatives know our communities. They
know our families and our school staff. The communication that occurs between local board members and
their schools is INVALUABLE! Having local representatives increases time and financial efficiency. These
representatives are best prepared to advocate for equitable funding as they understand their local school
community, ensuring that funds are best used for students’ benefit. Local representatives and local school
boards best understand services that exist in their communities and know how to get those services to our
students. Local representatives, and their schools can communicate with community programs and early
learning centers as a team to meet the needs of every child across ages and programs. Local school boards
hear our voices and help us guide their choices.
As rural-Manitobans, we have already lived through, and continue to live through, the negative effects of the
centralization of services. In past years, the province has amalgamized and centralized health care which has
led to serious negative impacts for rural residents. They include reduced access to health care, longer wait
times for services, increased travel time, increased costs associated with travel, and health initiatives that are
OUT OF TOUCH with our needs. These negative aspects could most certainly be extrapolated to education as
well. The negative effects of amalgamation of RHAs have not only affected health care, but the effects can be
seen throughout the community with local jobs being cut, residents moving away to be closer to health
centers, and local businesses closing due to reduced population. Furthermore, the sought-after financial gains
of amalgamation of RHAs have not been evidenced in the results. Are you going to tell those who have
elected you, that the same mistakes are going to be made again in our education system?
Though the negative effects of centralized RHAs have been clearly documented, your government continues
to pull from our rural communities. Over the past few years, Manitoba Hydro has left our rural communities
and job losses have resulted. We are now seeing job losses and relocation of residents to urban centers due to
the changes in the Mines and Minerals and Agriculture departments of government. These changes have
hardly been rolled out, and already our rural communities are seeing the negative effects. It is essential that
we realize the same will occur if you pull our schools and school boards out of our rural communities.
With the amalgamation of school boards, the loss of small schools and the creation of large, regionalized
schools is sure to follow. Certainly, in the age of Covid-19 we have become wiser and now know without a
doubt that bigger does not always mean better. Our community school has been able to successfully weather
the storm of the pandemic with confidence. Our small numbers must be seen as a relief and a benefit to the
province. Large, centralized schools have been much more of a burden on the province in terms of
implementing safety protocols during the pandemic. Our small class sizes should be sought after by the
province, not condemned, and seen as an obsolete system. Also, the pandemic has taught us that it is
extremely beneficial for students to remain in their communities. Bussing students from different
communities to spend the day indoors together in large groups is exactly what centralized schools would
achieve and is exactly what the province is trying so hard to fight against in this pandemic. The quality of
education our students have received this past year in our local school has remained excellent. Their
emotional, mental, and physical health have been of great priority to the school and staff and the fruit of their
labors is obvious. The staff in our small schools have been able to adjust with confidence, ensuring their
energies can remain focused on quality education. Our local school board have allowed us to be very
successful by knowing and meeting the particular needs of each of our communities during this time. A
large, centralized school board would certainly apply a one-size-fits-all approach to our communities and the
deficits of this thinking would been seen immediately.
We recognize that small community schools do have shortcomings. Giving our students vocational
opportunities and access to specialized services have been challenges that we experience. Nevertheless, we
are better equipped now more than ever to rise above these challenges. Our division, staff and students have
really risen to the task of remote learning and can utilize this option moving forward to expand the learning
opportunities for our children while they continue to thrive in our rural communities and schools. Local school
boards know best how to support and encourage our staff and students in this objective. Our staff have
become excellent at reaching outside our division for needs we cannot meet internally, while ensuring that
it is both cost effective and beneficial for the students. Our local school board has also studied the struggle of
shortages in specialized services for our students and have implemented early intervention strategies that
have aided in this area. In an area where clinicians are stretched thin, our Promise Years program initiated by
our local school board, has increased the support we provide to students and their families. Amalgamation of
our school divisions could see the dissolution of this beneficial program, as it is a program fine-tuned for our
rural area and local schools.
We fear that if amalgamation were to happen in our education system, those serving on a centralized division
or school board would not be equipped to know each area they are serving. It would be challenging, and next
to impossible, to form the needed relationships with schools and communities. A scenario like this would
inevitably lead to disconnect between school boards and their schools. This would very quickly directly affect
the education of our students as needs would not be met, and decisions made would not be in the best
interest of the school and community. If you have not lived your life in a rural community, you cannot fully
understand its needs and ambitions.
We do recognize the struggles of funding education in Manitoba. It requires a lot of money to educate
students, pay staff, and financially support the education system. However, we urge you to realize that small
schools and local school boards are not what is draining the system. Furthermore, centralization does not help
financial struggles, as we have seen in the department of health, but in fact exacerbates them by reducing
efficiency of all involved. We, as a rural school, are intimately aware of financial struggles in education as the
government has imposed budget cuts on our school and division almost every year for as long as we can
remember. Small schools should be commended for their ability to do much with the little funding we are
given. As we witness the expansion of programming and infrastructure in urban education centers in
Manitoba, we live through the cuts and downsizing in our own rural schools. Yet, we continue to provide
exceptional education because our local boards and local schools know best how to allocate funds and be
most efficient with what we have.
It can be assumed that centralization of school boards would result in further centralization of education
dollars and the decisions surrounding allocation of education funds. Bill 14, The Public Schools Modernization
Act of 2002, proved to us, a small rural school, that larger school divisions result in less for us. Bill 14
resulted in amalgamation of our local school board into a larger, more regional school board. This
amalgamation affected us greatly as we saw most of our tax dollars for education were suddenly spread out
between more schools and over a much greater distance than where the monies were collected. This left our
small rural school with even less education dollars for our own students. How much more will this be felt if
our education dollars are spread out over an even greater area? This is an area of extreme concern for both
our students and our taxpayers.
As you are aware, your government has pledged to reorganize the taxation structure for school taxes,
removing it from farmland as this once was a fair system but has evolved over time to put the burden of
raising funds highly on the farming sector. We agree and see the need for reform in school taxation but need
to ensure that centralization does not continue to take resources from rural Manitoba for the benefit of
urban Manitoba. We have seen this in the past with centralization and history will surely repeat itself. Funds
from rural Manitoba will be relocated into urban centers and the rural quality of education will again be
diminished. We urge you NOT to do this.
We also ask that your government provide us with information on how the results from the 2019 Education
Review are being utilized. This review required considerable time and funds by the provincial government, and
we cannot help but think the information gathered is now outdated and perhaps irrelevant as education has
changed faster than ever precedented in the past year. We caution you to not just push ahead with the
information gathered from this review, but go back to the drawing board to determine which areas truly
need reform, and in which direction the reforms should go. We do know that our local board and our staff at
Southwest Horizon School Division spent considerable time and energy determining how to improve our local
schools and proposed excellent initiatives we hope to see implemented. Perhaps these initiatives should guide
your provincial education reform. Perhaps all divisions should consider these initiatives and fit them to suit
their specific needs. Often the best ideas start from the ground up.
Premier Pallister recently spoke to the public regarding the issues surrounding Manitoba Hydro, and criticized
the previous government for making decisions regarding Hydro projects while keeping Manitobans in the dark.
We urge you not to make the same mistake again. Premier Pallister promised Manitobans he would not keep
them in the dark again regarding decisions for which they will bear the weight. Education reform is one of
those decisions. Keep your promise – do not keep us in the dark. We have a right to be part of the
We urge you to ask yourself this key question before any education reform is implemented: Will this benefit
the students? For our education to be exceptional in Manitoba, strong relationships must be in place between
school boards, school staff, students, and the communities in which they live. Do not remove the students and
their schools from their communities. Do not remove our local school boards. Do not take away the voices of
our communities and allow them to get lost in large numbers. Centralization and amalgamation of our
schools and school boards in Manitoba would be a mistake that the province would one day have to apologize
for. Let us be wise and not go down that road.
Thank you.
Yours Sincerely,
Waskada School Parent Advisory Council