Open Letter to Premier Ball - It's Time for a Change in Education
By: Ryan Young
September 27, 2016
September 27, 2016
Dear Premier Ball,
There are many issues that I could be writing you on today. It is no secret that the people of this province are unhappy with many of the decisions that your government has made since last November. People are suffering under your “tough choices,” and there has been a total breakdown in communication between government and the people of this province. This has resulted in many of us losing faith in your ability to successfully manage our province.
Of the many issues we are facing, Education has been the one getting the most attention as of late. Schools being closed by an un-elected school board, the rush to implement full day kindergarten, shared classrooms, overcrowding, bussing issues, and child care are just a few of the issues that people are concerned about. There has been an up-welling of public outrage at not only the cuts to our children’s education, but at the continued arrogance and disdain shown by Minister Dale Kirby towards legitimate concerns.
We all understand that the province is in a tough spot, but the old adage that you can’t cut your way into prosperity is a true one, especially when we are talking about our children’s safety and education. By taking money from our children to fund projects like Muskrat Falls we are setting ourselves up for failure. Only by investing in our children and our families can we expect to build a real “stronger tomorrow” for our province.
Less than a year into his tenure as minister, Mr. Kirby has already alienated the NLTA, the Federation of School Councils, and the Child Care Coalition of NL, among other groups, as well thousands of parents across the province who are unsatisfied with the job he is doing as minister, and with his utter disregard for their concerns. He has repeatedly dismissed legitimate concerns as “foolish,” and has refused to engage in meaningful discussions with education stakeholders. He has been accused by leaders of stakeholder groups of being dishonest and spreading falsehoods. And maybe worst of all, the arrogant and dismissive nature in which he has been dealing with criticism has been very unprofessional and has left the public feeling that Minister Kirby is completely out of touch with the people of this province.
We are less than a month into the school year, and already we have heard stories of not enough furniture in classrooms, and teachers have been asked to scrounge for supplies. Parents won a court decision to keep their school open and were hopeful that an elected school board would decide their future, but they were denied that right. We have heard numerous complaints about safety concerns regarding our bussing system, and just last week we had the majority of children at Riverside Elementary kept home in protest to a dangerously overcrowded school. These are serious concerns that deserve to be dealt with in a timely and effective manner. We are talking about the safety of our children. That should trump any budget concerns we have. Our children are worth the expense. At the very least the minister should be having open discussions about these issues instead of calling us all foolish and refusing to talk with stakeholders.
This government campaigned on a platform of openness and transparency. It was the very first part of the Liberal 5-point plan that outlined your plan for the next four years. Were these just buzzwords used to get elected? Since you have taken office, your government has been anything but open and transparent. I myself have had to file ATIPPA requests for simple budget documents and have been ignored by both Minister Kirby as member of the coalition, and as MHA Dale Kirby, who represents my district of Mount Scio. Does my being vocal mean that I don’t deserve government assistance when dealing with issues? Does it mean that the stakeholders of the education and early learning system in this province have their concerns ignored? Apparently it does. At first I thought it was just me, but as we now know, many others are saying the same thing. Minister Kirby’s response has been to either ignore or dismiss each and every concern that has been brought forward by the people of the province.
Based on Minister Kirby’s performance thus far, I call upon you, Premier Ball, to step in and take necessary action to restore the faith of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador in the management of our education system. If Minister Kirby is unwilling or unable to address the concerns of the people, then he needs to be replaced with someone who will. We can’t afford to waste time playing with word games and clashing personalities. The children of this province deserve better and the people need to know that our education system is moving in the right direction.
Minister Kirby has had ample opportunity to put ego aside and begin engaging in meaningful conversation with education stakeholders to begin tackling the major issues we are facing. The issues are many, and can only be resolved when all stakeholders have a seat at the table. In the spirit of openness and transparency and the commitment that your government made to improve education for children in this province, it is time for a change in the education portfolio. If you wish to restore the faith of the people in your leadership, you must be willing to listen to the concerns of the people and prove to us that you are willing to act in the best interest of our province. We will accept nothing less.