McNeil at­tacks school boards in N.S. elec­tion cam­paign

Cape Breton Post - - Province - BY AD­INA BRESGE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said he’ll put the prov­ince’s school boards un­der the mi­cro­scope if re-elected be­cause trustees’ de­ci­sion to vote them­selves pay in­creases while cut­ting while cut­ting class­room re­sources has put them out of step with Nova Sco­tians’ pri­or­i­ties.

McNeil told The Cana­dian Press Sun­day that a pro­posed 24 per cent stipend in­crease ap­proved by all but one board sends the wrong sig­nal.

“We ask our school board part­ners to act like ev­ery other pub­lic ser­vant. You need to make sure that your salary in­creases are in line with what the prov­ince can af­ford,” McNeil said Sun­day. “It is send­ing a very wrong sig­nal to par­ents, teach­ers that school boards would vote them­selves a 24 per cent pay raise and then try to jus­tify tak­ing fund­ing out of class­rooms that we specif­i­cally have in­creased so that it would be there.”

McNeil said if his govern­ment is re-elected on May 30 he’ll launch a re­view of school board ad­min­is­tra­tion to look for sav­ings.

The Liberals say they’ll freeze school clo­sures while re­view­ing whether board de­ci­sions are in line with the prov­ince’s com­mit­ments to class­room con­di­tions.

McNeil says he wants to make sure schools have the space to put a tighter rein on class sizes in ju­nior and se­nior high schools, pro­vide uni­ver­sal prepri­mary care and add 100 new teach­ers.

“The de­ci­sion will still be made at the lo­cal level, but I think any rea­son­able per­son would ex­pect that they should have all the in­for­ma­tion be­fore they make the de­ci­sion,” said McNeil. “This is not a top-down ap­proach. This is mak­ing sure that they (school boards) know that the broader pub­lic pol­icy has changed.”

The new poli­cies come at the rec­om­men­da­tion of a coun­cil look­ing at class­room con­di­tions, which was es­tab­lished af­ter the prov­ince im­posed a con­tract on its 9,300 union­ized teach­ers in Fe­bru­ary fol­low­ing a messy con­tract dis­pute.

McNeil said some teach­ers still have hard feel­ings about how the ne­go­ti­a­tions played out, but the Liberals have tried to strike a “bal­ance” by giv­ing them more in­put into class­room changes.

Schools that are slated to be closed would still pro­ceed, said McNeil, and the re­view would wrap up by the end of the 2017 to take ef­fect the next school year.

Tory leader Jamie Bail­lie ac­cused McNeil of play­ing pol­i­tics with ed­u­ca­tion while sev­eral of the prov­ince’s schools were shut­tered on his watch.

“His govern­ment has caused chaos in our class­rooms,” Bail­lie said in an in­ter­view Sun­day. “Teach­ers don’t trust him. Par­ents won­der why he’s sud­denly tak­ing an in­ter­est in school boards when he had three years to take ac­tion.”

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party has long en­dorsed a re­view of the prov­ince’s school boards, Bail­lie said, call­ing them “overly bu­reau­cratic.”

CP PHOTO

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is seen in his of­fice in Hal­i­fax on Fri­day, April 21. Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is ac­cus­ing school boards of be­ing out of step by vot­ing them­selves in­creases to their stipends while cut­ting class­room re­sources.

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