This is absolutely extraordinary.
Today Education Minister and Sask Party incumbent candidate Don Morgan lashed out at Larry Pavloff, Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD) board chair, for daring to share some pretty vital information with the division’s parents because – GASP! – it could hamper the Sask Party’s election outcome.
God forbid they only win 80 percent of Saskatchewan seats on April 4th, as opposed to what, all of them?
At issue is a letter Pavlov sent to all PSSD parents and staff to notify them that the division may be in the position of having to lay off 75 full-time equivalent staff.
The fact that PSSD is cash-strapped and bursting at the seams is no secret. It was almost exactly one year ago, on March 17, 2015, that the division sent parents and staff virtually the exact same letter, warning them about this very real possibility.
Yet today, after hearing about the letter from the division advising the inevitable had arrived, Morgan told the Star Phoenix,
“Sadly, this makes a political issue out of something that ought not to be a political issue. It’s something that’s very alarming to students, to parents and also to the teachers who work hard to give good service to our students.”
Yeah, no SHIT it’s alarming Don, that’s why they sent the letter.
The fact that it’s Morgan’s job to deal with this, right now, and that he inconveniently also happens to be a politician campaigning to keep his job, right now, is not the PSSD’s fault. Nor should it hold up the division’s rather important business of planning the 2016-17 education of its thousands of students.
The egotism conveyed by Morgan’s reaction is compounded exponentially by the fact that Morgan, and his party, know full well that on April 4th they will handily retain their jobs.
The school division could write a letter to parents and students saying they were going to cut all their teachers, and Morgan and the Sask Party would still retain their jobs.
So this isn’t about decrying the timing of what the PSSD said, it’s about decrying the fact they dared speak at all.
Last November Brad Wall made it clear that Saskatchewan school divisions were going to feel some pain when his government delivers their next budget – likely early May. Any teachers laid off for the 2016-17 school year must receive notice by May 31 of this year, meaning waiting until after the budget is delivered to make these decisions is out of the question.
Making these kinds of significant decisions secretly is also out of the question. Election or no election, parents and staff have every right to know what’s happening in their child’s school next week, next month or next year.
Even when not facing tough decisions, teachers and administrators always begin planning for the next school year in March – election or not. Surely Morgan is well aware of that fact.
I’m getting increasingly concerned over the fact that we’re about to coronate a massive government, who will likely face little to no Opposition, again.
Not only that, we’re about to coronate a massive, virtually unopposed government which seems comfortable suing journalists for telling stories they don’t like, or shaming officials like Pavloff for daring to speak out about things that might make them look bad.
I don’t want to live in a province like that…
That feels a lot like going backwards.
*While I’m thinking about it – no, there’s nothing stopping a school board official from talking during a writ period. That rule applies only to Executive Council and Crown Corporations [Sec 2 (1) (d)]
Update March 23, 2016 – A friend sent me this, from Regina’s 620CKRM:
“Education Minister Don Morgan wouldn’t say money is being misspent, but did say his office has heard people say there is too much money going into administrative and professional development costs.
Officials from the Ministry are set to review both those items. The provincial auditor is also set to review capital costs at the School Division after buildings have gone unattended to maintenance-wise in the last few years.
Morgan says this likely isn’t a matter of funding, but rather growth being greater than the increases that have gone to the division.”
Now, please note that these are not actual Don Morgan quotes, I’m quoting the news article, which is summarizing what Morgan said to them. Make sense? That said, I have to trust the news outlet is reporting just the facts, ma’am.
In respect to “his office has heard people say”… is that how the Minister shares information with news media? Someone in his office heard from someone else that… ugh.
“…after buildings have gone unattended to maintenance-wise in the last few years.”… wouldn’t be because the school division is broke, would it?
And then after that hatchet job, Morgan admits that it is in fact underfunding – that PSSD hasn’t received enough cash to keep up with growth – though he somehow also manages to suggest that notion isn’t a matter of funding.
And as for the provincial audit he threatens, obviously implying something’s up – every school division is audited every year, both provincially and forensically by a third party (ie the school division hires KPMG).
Mr Morgan: your government is at it’s best when it is honest, fair and transparent, even when addressing its own shortcomings, so what are you thinking? Let me guess – the PSSD is full of a bunch of lefty STF and union members. Well, last I checked your a Sask Party candidate, so you don’t get to say this is political for them, but not for you. Further, these officials will actually lose their jobs if they don’t do them properly, whereas you’re about to get another unbreakable four-year contract.
I’m going to have to quit my own day job to write this blog if this level of spin continues til 2020.