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EDITORIAL: Put some thought into it

No one wants to see Nova Scotia teachers take job action again. Been there, done that. The T-shirt?: pretty much use it for cleaning up.

Still, people in this province might want to learn more about why teachers are taking a strike vote next week. While the ruffled feathers between teachers and the provincial government had been over classroom conditions thwarting student advancement, it would be worth seeing to what degree the recently embraced report by consultant Avis Glaze focused on that.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union and other critics are picking up on a couple of the recommendations, such as the removal of principals and vice-principals from the union and the creation of a provincial college of educators to license, govern, discipline and regulate the teaching profession.

Recent columns by political commentator Jim Vibert that have appeared in The News touched on some of these recommendations.

For example, of the removal of principals from the teachers union, Vibert wrote, the idea was tried and failed in British Columbia. Ontario also made the move, which saw a sharp increase in labour-related grievances – which benefited lawyers, not so much the students.

As some have pointed out about such an arrangement, it also wouldn’t work very well in a smaller school – and the province has lots of them – in which principals and vice-principals also teach regular classes.

The report also calls for the scrapping of the seven English-language school boards across the province.

This latter point – some might question just how much influence the elected boards have on their schools, or their contribution. Others might see the pending loss as yet another erosion of democratic involvement in education.

Perhaps eliminating school boards is the best thing since sliced bread. On the other hand, if they’re scrapped only to be replaced by a thicker layer of bureaucracy under the wing of the Education Department – we’ll just have to wait and see how much of an improvement that is.

But the thing is, this proposed change – like a lot of the recommendations – has never been discussed, at least not outside the Liberal caucus.

That’s one point teachers and others are making: the lack of discussion or debate about what amounts to significant changes. Also, consider that the report was adopted, all 22 recommendations, by the Liberal government a day after its release.

What is the public to make of that, other than that this was a report, ordered off the menu, and handed to a consultant to serve it all up on paper. When the next session of the legislature sits, starting Feb. 27, many anticipate this will be among the first orders of business. With a Liberal majority, adopting and implementing the report would be a slam dunk.

That’s all without discussion, meaningful debate involving the opposition, or a chance to hear feedback from the public.

And perhaps some or much of what’s contained in the recommendations are good. But if some items are questionable, this whole process is proving too hasty.

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