Wednesday, 25 January 2017 11:32

Rural education still a learning process for urban-based government

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Dan Perrins, ironically was a deputy minister under Premier Lorne Calvert. So why would a Sask. Party government name a former NDP cabinet minister to head up a commission?

Conspiracy theorists would suggest if the Sask. Party wanted to reduce the numbers of school boards have someone like minded to do it for them, then perfect and they wouldn’t be wearing the black hats in all of this ... maybe just a little grey.
Those who are Saskatchewan political history buffs will remember Perrins was a key cog in a government which closed a number of rural hospitals and Spudco to name a few.
Reducing costs in the rural areas is probably not out of the realm of Perrins’ logical wheelhouse. Who better to suggest changes in the rural area than someone not tied to the provincial government who one knows is thinking the Sask. Party’s thinking?
The opposition, although initially NDP’s education critic Carla Beck expressed her doubts, can’t say too much — Perrins was one of them. The Sask. Party can say they tried to be as impartial as possible with an expert who lives outside of the province yet still has understanding. Perfect.
Classic politics — send the trial balloon of the worst or least popular possible scenario i.e. one super board overseeing 606 publicly-funded schools. Then go for the one they really want —  four regional divisions which have to answer to education minister Don Morgan.
Of course there is also the third option Perrins described as just restructuring the current 18 boards of education into eight to 14 new ones.
Mention something about “doing it for the students and the well-being of the children and we’re not thinking about the trustees” and you have yourself what would be considered more palatable for the public.
Someone forgot to tell some of the trustees from the Chinook School board and a growing disenchanted crowd from the southwest, i.e. Fox Valley, who have been public about their dislike for some of what’s come from the Perrins’ report. They feel a centralized school board means a loss of local jobs, a loss of connection of government to the rural area and a loss of understanding and autonomy.
They’re probably right. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s a lot easier for a government in one place to make decisions which benefits the closest proximity than it does for someone far away.
It’s predictable those living in the urban centres are pointing at the number of rural municipalities, growth in the urban areas and saying who cares about small hospitals and schools when all the action is in Regina, Saskatoon and other cities.
Trouble is, not everybody lives there and that’s what makes Saskatchewan unique. Hazlet has a phenomenal international student exchange program, Fox Valley has always been a solid school with a legendary sports program, and Ponteix has a strong french component. All  rural schools can hang their hats on something.
It’s a dangerous trial balloon the Sask. Party is flying. The hospital boards are one thing as there aren’t hospitals in smaller places such as Burstall, Success, Consul or Frontier.
However, when the urbanites get a look at the enrolment numbers and compare them to some east-side school in Regina, well of course it looks like a small rural school should  close. A local school board wouldn’t let that happen without exhausting all options or giving the community a chance to figure out alternatives, such as in the case of Tompkins.
Watching what the public says and what the government does will determine what kind of chance rural areas have in the future.
Next ... rural municipalities.
Ryan Dahlman is managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor