Manitoba's official opposition party is putting the brakes on a bill proposing massive changes to Manitoba's education system.
Bill 64, proposed by the Government of Manitoba, seeks to amalgamate the province's 37 school boards into one, excluding Division scolaire franco-manitobaine.
"It is no surprise to Manitobans that our system needed to change," Education Minister Cliff Cullen said in a press conference on March 15 announcing the changes. "Our province spends some of its highest on education in Canada but sees out students achieve some of the lowest results."
Cullen says this comes after the results of a commissioned study.
Nello Altomare, MLA for Transcona and NDP's education critic, is announcing the NDP is delaying Bill 64.
"This 309-page document is an unprecedented power grab that does not address the number one issue that addresses student performance and also when we talk about voice, really takes away and diminishes voice in the system, especially parent voice and community voice," he says.
Altomare is a retired River East Transcona School Division principal.
The NDP is asking Manitobans to complete their own survey. Manitobans have voiced concerns over the leading nature of the province's survey, questioning the impartialness of the questions.
"It has been really upsetting to see how demoralizing it has been for (teachers) and for us (parents) I am on a parent council and we do great work with fundraising. We do not deal with big budgets, policies, and hiring," parent Trish Cooper says in the conference.
In her time volunteering, Cooper says having a trustee made a big difference to their work. Bill 64 would eliminate this position and shift part of their responsibility onto parents. Without them, Coper does not know how the next person to advocate and discuss with them about community needs.
"It is madness to think that a bunch of parents are going to be able to control the system."
A public school teacher named Tracy joined, saying she has been with students "through the best and the worst life has to offer them" and says this is a privilege and is concerned about its impact on her students.
"Bill 64 will have impacts on learning and I am concerned about how it will address student's needs, whether they be academic, social, emotional, mental health or any combination thereof," the educator says.
Drawing attention to child poverty, Tracy says this is a significant issue the education system is facing.
"More children will go to bed hungry tonight in Manitoba than almost anywhere across this great country. How can we possibly expect a student to perform well on a standardized test when they are not sure where their next healthy meal is coming from, and whether they will have a safe place that night to sleep."
She is worried students will be lost in the system.
Both Tracy and Cooper declined to say where they were from other than Winnipeg, saying they are speaking for themselves.
Altomare says he is also concerned about child poverty, saying transience is an issue in education.
"I remember when I was a principal, a kid would be sitting right across from me when I was at Valley Gardens. They would say 'Mr. Altomare this is my eighth school' and my jaw would drop. Because they are on a constant mission to find that affordable place to live and to be fed."
He says this creates issues getting to know teachers and communities, and subsequently education performance.
"We need to remember that child to make sure that they get that proper support, proper housing, and proper ability to even just be able to make a contribution to their school."
This delay creates time for parents and communities to review Bill 64.