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Penticton  

Trustees demand document

The board of trustees for School District 67 is demanding access to a government rural education review that has been controversially kept confidential.

In 2016, the B.C. Ministry of Education undertook a province-wide review of rural education options, including creating an online survey and soliciting members of the public for their viewpoints.

The project was led by Boundary-SImilkameen MLA Linda Larson, and was described on B.C. government websites as a way to gather information to help improve rural education. It came to a controversial end in 2017 when findings from the review were not made public. 

SD 67, which governs public schools in the Okanagan-Skaha area, met Monday night for their board meeting, where a motion was passed to send an official letter to the B.C. Ministry of Education asking to see the review.

Trustee Ginny Manning spoke up forcefully in favour of sending the letter, calling out the government for not releasing the report in June 2017 as promised and highlighting the hard work that went into the review. 

"There was a lot of hours, we put in a submission as a board, we all contributed individually, tons of people took the time to go online and type up their stories," Manning said. "It was a discussion, people went on and gave all kinds of information and ideas about rural education."

She said that transparency is key to holding the Ministry of Education accountable for the promises they made regarding the review. 

"They have said that they will be using what's useful out of the report for funding that they're working on, but how do we know that? There's no accountability." Manning said. "This is our report, being informed by people around the province."

Trustee Linda Van Alphen questioned whether the ministry's reluctance to share the review means the findings were less than positive about the state of rural education.

"If the report actually proves that we're not putting enough money toward our rural areas, then it's our small areas that are suffering," Van Alphen said. "If it's that detrimental, we need to see it."

Board chair Bill Bidlake put it more simply. 

"It's a public document that should be public," Bidlake said.

The motion to send the letter passed unanimously. 



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