30 September 2016
For immediate release
Don’t forget classrooms and communities: Bevan-Baker
Green Party of P.E.I. Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is concerned about how upcoming school reviews will affect frontline teaching and rural communities.
Bevan-Baker acknowledges that rezoning students to make better use of existing schools is necessary to address issues of overcrowding. However, he stresses that data on more than just school utilization need to be considered in the process.
“Government has been adamant that their primary concern in education is to be ‘focused on the learner’. I hope they keep their slogan front of mind during these reviews and consider how these changes will affect teachers and the student experience in the classroom,” said Bevan-Baker. “Research shows that class size is a key factor in student outcomes, and so I’d also like to see class size projections as a key measure by which we evaluate these reforms.”
Bevan-Baker is also concerned about how school rezoning will affect rural communities. “Rezoning and closing schools has a major impact on the sustainability of rural communities,” said Bevan-Baker. “Schools are the backbones of our local communities, and closing them seriously jeopardizes the social and economic development of these communities.”
Bevan-Baker notes that there is a complete lack of vision and planning with respect to rural community development in the Province. “Services in education, health, culture, recreation, and economic development, are all critical elements to sustaining rural communities, but currently they are operating independently from each other without a coordinated approach. How does government expect our rural communities to thrive – or even survive – in this environment?”
The province’s 2010 Rural Action Plan expired last year and there has been no move to date to develop a new one. However, Bevan-Baker notes that this Plan was limited to economic development, ignoring social and environmental concerns, the other key pillars of sustainable development. “It’s past time we developed a comprehensive and holistic strategy for sustainable rural development that integrates all of the key elements that affect rural communities. Local schools would undoubtedly feature strongly in such a strategy.”
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For more information on the rezoning process see the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture’s School Review website.
For a summary of the research on the impact of class sizes see Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach’s report Does Class Size Matter? (2014).
For more information on best practices in rural development and planning see the State of Rural Canada (2015) report, in particular the Discussions and Recommendations chapter by Sean Markey and Greg Halseth.
The Province’s Rural Action Plan (2010-2015) expired in March 2015. In November of last year Bevan-Baker asked Minister Heath MacDonald if there were any plans to develop a new rural development strategy but no commitment was made.