Karen Casey on the state of the education system
© Monique Chiasson - Truro Daily News
Colchester North MLA Karey Casey answers some questions about education in Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and the province. Casey was re-instated as the province's education minister in the fall. She previously held the position from 2006 to 2009.
Karen Casey, Colchester North MLA and newly re-appointed Education minister, recently spoke with TC Media about the state of education in Nova Scotia and related changes she foresees for the future.
Q. There have been huge cuts to schools throughout the province consistently for a number of years. Will those cuts continue now that a new government is in place?
A. I don’t see more cuts coming. The government needs to listen to the people and the voices of most people were not heard in the last few years.
Q. In recent years, there have been many educational assistants cut from the classroom due to budget decreases. Will more EAs be brought back to local schools?
A. It would be my hope that every student who has a special need and requires support from an EA (educational assistant) will have them. I will be including in my budget support for students with special needs. The (premier) has identified that as a priority.
Q. How does the government reinvest in education when we have been told there is no money and cuts were a necessity?
A. The previous government did not recognize education as a priority and took money out of education for other things. Our challenge is to try to rebuild that … the premier has acknowledged that health and education are priorities. We have to find a one per savings to (all other) budgets to reinvest $65 million (into education). I think people will be happy (with cuts to other departments) if they know it’s coming from efficiencies ... I believe they can be found so it’s not new money to the provincial government, it’s better use of money within.
Q. There have been many reports that children are struggling in math. What can be done to improve this area of education?
A. In 2006 to 2009, math scores were not as good as we would have liked them to have been (and) supports for teachers were made available if (curriculum was) outside their area of expertise. Math mentors were put in place but those … were taken out by the previous government. That will be reinstated. We’ll have to look at that in the new budget.
Q. In the past few years, some area schools have been closed, will be closed in the near future or their futures have been debated. How do you make the process more fair and less controversial?
A. The school review process has always been controversial. Key, I believe, is that the community work with the school board to determine the best interest of students. We need to have honest and open sharing of information and there has to be a level of trust between community and school boards.
Q. How can that trust be strengthened?
A. We have put a community representative in as part of the school review process. That person will be (involved) throughout the process and that hasn’t always happened before. I also recommend people be open to listen to families who have gone through it before and see (the benefits) of (each situation).
Q. Other school boards in the province have been reduced over the years. Is Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, which is comprised of almost 20 voting members, too large?
A. You have to look at the geography (represented by a school board). You need to recognize if you truly want to be a voice you have to be available to people and know the reality of that area. I think we are fine.
Q. What are some of the upcoming projects you will be keeping an eye on in the education system?
A. We will be doing a comprehensive review, overall, to help determine how to reinvest $65 million in education. We will look at school report cards … people are not happy with how schools communicate with parents … and we are working on the school review process with the public.