April 9, 2021
Dear Mr. Cullen,
Do not assume the parents who write open letters or express concerns about the proposed changes to our education system have not read the (sparse) information provided. We *have* read the documents and we still have very serious concerns. Stop insulting the intelligence of Manitobans. With all due respect, Mr. Cullen, your open letter sets absolutely nothing straight. In fact, it further highlights how out of touch our Conservative government is. It showcases how little you have listened to the experts trying to advise you on how best to support the students in Manitoba’s public schools.
You claim the Conservative government has reduced child poverty by 25% since 2016. That figure may sound nice when you offer it up with no context. In fact, Manitoba’s poverty rate has decreased the least of any province in all of Canada, and we are still 10% behind the national average. Not to mention, poverty rates in Manitoba decreased largely due to the Federal Child Tax Benefit program, which coincidentally was introduced in July of 2016, and had nothing to do with the Conservative government. Manitoba still has second highest rate of poverty in Canada at 28.3%.
I’m also wondering how our government can expect single parents to volunteer for Parent Advisory Councils (PACs) while working multiple minimum and low-wage jobs just to scrape together enough to provide for their families? In Manitoba, over 60% of single-parent households live below the poverty line, but they should somehow “sacrifice” in order to volunteer at their child’s school? Exactly which “sacrifice” does our Premier want these parents to make, I wonder? Should they sacrifice buying groceries? Paying rent? Their utilities?
In schools that have PACs, those councils are primarily made up of white, higher-income parents who have the resources, the time, and the privilege to volunteer at their children’s schools. This is in no way to devalue their hard work. Unfortunately, Mr. Pallister’s comments made in question period on March 22 were based on faulty assumptions. Due to systemic racism and ableism, most of the parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet are Indigenous peoples, immigrants, people of colour, people with disabilities, and other minority groups that already experience systemic racism and oppression. Most of the privileged families in Canada are white. Because racism.
So now, groups that are already struggling will have even less of a say in the way their children’s schools are run because the higher-income families will be taking up all the seats at the table.
How will high-income, white, stay-at-home parents understand the struggles faced by those minority groups? How will a parent whose children do not have any disabilities understand the needs of the families and students who do? The parents whose children have disabilities are already busy trying to work to pay for therapies, taking their children to appointments, and meeting with teachers and school staff to advocate for their children. Where are we supposed to find the time to volunteer? And if we don’t, are we not making enough of a “sacrifice” for our children, as Mr. Pallister suggested?
The only thing that we seem to agree on, Mr. Cullen, is that our current education system needs to change. Yes, it needs a massive overhaul, but the Conservatives are clearly not equipped or qualified to do this and are not willing to listen to the experts who want to guide our policy-makers in the best interests of children.
So, Mr. Pallister and Mr Cullen: Kindly step aside and let the experts do their jobs. Perhaps there is room on your children’s advisory councils for you to voice your ill-informed, uneducated opinions with the other privileged parents?
and ADHD 2e Manitoba
CYW, BA Psych., Child Advocate