Education Minister gets into brief heated exchange with Opposition
The Opposition contends that school enrolment is going up in September, not down.
It also points out that the Department of Education is reducing the number of education assistants in the system, but the minister responsible for the department denies that.
Once again, Education Minister Hal Perry found himself in the crosshairs of the Tory party in the P.E.I. legislature during question period on Thursday.
The debate on the issue got heated briefly towards the end.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers says the minister initially told the house that enrolment was projected to decline about 300 students for this September.
However, according to their information, it will increase - from 19,007 to 19,139.
“I don’t expect that your math is any better than the premier’s but to me that number sounds like 132 to the plus,’’ Myers said.
Perry said enrolment has been on the decline for the past 20 years with about 6,000 fewer students in the system.
“If we have a projected enrolment (increase) this fall of 120 or 130 or whatever it is, that’s good news for our Island schools. That’s good news for our population on Prince Edward Island,’’ Perry said.
Myers then asked Perry to justify why he’s cutting teacher positions if enrolment is increasing.
Perry said his department is in the process of confirming Myers’ enrolment numbers.
“These numbers were given just in the last few days from principals and it’s good timing because we are reviewing the reductions in the teachers,’’ Perry said.
Later, Opposition MLA Brad Trivers said they’re hearing from a number of schools that the levels of EAs are being reduced through positions and hours.
“West Kent Elementary School is being cut from six EAs to three EAs and of the three left, two of them are having their hours cut,’’ Trivers said to Perry.
“Shame, shame,’’ Opposition MLA Colin LaVie said, chiming in.
“Cardigan school, the EAs are being cut by eight hours, an equivalent of 1.2 positions,’’ Trivers said.
Perry said those decisions are made by the school board and that EAs are often moved around to different schools.
Perry then took the Opposition to task for its tone on the issue of teaching positions.
“The Opposition has really dragged the education system through the mud. I think that’s a reflection on our teachers and I think that’s very disrespectful and they should be . . .’’
Before Perry could continue Myers interrupted him.
“You’re the laughingstock of Prince Edward Island. I don’t know how you look in the mirror in the morning,’’ Myers said loudly.
That set off a series of loud but inaudible exchanges.
Buck Watts, Speaker of the house, slammed his gavel down, declaring “Order, please.’’
Perry then accused the Opposition of focusing on “doom and gloom’’ before question period came to an end.
Opposition MLA Brad Trivers is seen at the provincial legislature this week.