Back on the hot seat

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hal Perry faces tough ques­tions from Op­po­si­tion and Lib­eral MLAs in leg­is­la­ture

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - BY DAVE STEWART dstew­art@the­ Twit­­wart

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hal Perry was get­ting it from both sides of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture on Wed­nes­day.

The Op­po­si­tion took aim at him right off the bat dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod.

On the other side of the leg­is­la­ture, Lib­eral MLA Robert Hen­der­son later said he wasn’t happy with how de­ci­sions are made about open­ing, clos­ing or de­lay­ing school on storm days.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Steven My­ers asked Perry how he can say his ed­u­ca­tion bud­get is up by $3.76 mil­lion when the school board grant is nearly $300,000 less than the al­ready-con­tracted salary in­crease for teach­ers.

Perry ac­knowl­edged a 1.6 per cent bud­get in­crease and would be happy to talk about the other part of the ques­tion later when his depart­ment pre­sented its bud­get es­ti­mates.

My­ers then asked about a $300,000 de­crease in the school main­te­nance, trans­porta­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tion bud­get, ask­ing what im­pact it would have.

Perry said the province has more than $500 mil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture and that the “safety of our chil­dren is a pri­or­ity’’.

My­ers then asked Perry to con­firm that there will be a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of ca­sual school bus driv­ers hired this fall. My­ers said it means routes will be dou­bled up and stu­dents will spend more time on buses.

“Do you feel that the stu­dent spend­ing over two hours a day on a school bus is pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive for their learn­ing?’’ My­ers asked.

Perry re­sponded that the ca­sual po­si­tions are filled by the school board and that it’s an on­go­ing process.

“Again, this is a topic, it’s a chal­lenge right now at the mo­ment, and I’m glad that the school board is now de­vel­op­ing pol­icy on trans­porta­tion, also in­clud­ing com­po­si­tion and zon­ing,’’ Perry said.

Later, it was Hen­der­son’s turn.

“My con­cern is the in­con­sis­ten­cies of weather across the Is­land and road con­di­tions,’’ Hen­der­son told The Guardian af­ter ques­tion pe­riod. “In ar­eas such as the Westisle fam­ily of schools you’re get­ting in­con­sis­tent an­swers so buses are go­ing out pick­ing up kids and get­ting called back or they’re get­ting out onto roads that aren’t safe and buses are get­ting stuck.’’

Hen­der­son said he’s get­ting calls from bus driv­ers and par­ents un­happy with the way de­ci­sions are made on storm days.

Perry said there are spot­ters across the province who mon­i­tor weather con­di­tions from 3:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. and then con­sult on con­fer­ence call with of­fi­cials in Char­lot­te­town. Hen­der­son sug­gests go­ing back to the old sys­tem where a su­per­vi­sor with each fam­ily of schools as­sessed the sit­u­a­tion for that spe­cific area.

“There needs to be more ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion so kids are feel­ing safe . . . and bus driv­ers aren’t put un­der pres­sure of mak­ing de­ci­sions to go down a cer­tain road and that is what is hap­pen­ing,’’ Hen­der­son said. “All I’m say­ing to the min­is­ter is (the cur­rent sys­tem) doesn’t seem to be work­ing very well in the ru­ral ar­eas of the province.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.