Saturday, May 31, 2008

You have got to be kidding Mr. Kershaw

Blogger's comment: It is curious that they are willing to spend $1.2 million on a 54 page PSE report, $4.7 million on a golf course, $800,000 on a plane, $180,000 for the Croll and Lee report, $100,000 on a communication report, but they are not willing to invest in helping promote real bilingualism (i.e., advanced levels through EFI) for the anglophone children of NB. This indeed is a strange way to run Canada’s only bilingual province. I wish they would wake up and start getting their priorities right.

Too late to stop immersion changes - affidavit
Published Thursday May 29th, 2008
Canadaeast News Service

SAINT JOHN - Changes to French immersion in the province are underway and it's too late to turn back, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Deputy minister of Education John Kershaw filed an affidavit in the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John, indicating a reversal of the revamped French second-language program could cost more than $2 million.

The affidavit seeks a dismissal of the request by two parents for a judicial review of Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's decision to axe early immersion.

Kershaw argues in the court documents that slowing down the reform would benefit the minority of students who have not enrolled in French immersion at the expense of the majority.

"The inconvenience and disruption to the school system from any such delay would be enormous," Kershaw states in the affidavit.

Lamrock sounded the death knell for early immersion in March when he announced sweeping reforms of the French second-language system based on a controversial report by Jim Croll and Patricia Lee.

The report has been blasted as containing flawed data and faulty logic. Some parents have pressured the government to back down on the changes.

Ombudsman Bernard Richard is moving ahead with a review of the plan, which he called a "tremendous gamble."

School districts have organized classes and scheduling, and made staffing decisions based on the restructured program, the document states.

New physical education and music specialists have also been hired and they would have to be reassigned or laid off, the affidavit states.

"That argument is disingenuous," said Alison Menard, president of the New Brunswick branch of Canadian Parents for French.

"The department is not even in a position to provide information about the curriculum for all the French second language programming they're implementing. It's difficult for me to understand how they're arguing before the court that it's impossible to reverse the tide."

A primary bone of contention for many parents has been what they deem a total lack of consultation on such a major revamp of French second-language programming.

But the affidavit states Lamrock had no obligation to consult the public before making the decision. Though the Education Act outlines areas where public input is necessary, the early immersion program is not one of them.

In fact, the affidavit states that since October of 2003, there have been various changes with little to no public consultation, including a major overhaul of the math program that will cut 50 per cent of its required teaching objectives starting in September.

That argument doesn't fly either, Ménard said.

"We're talking about major fundamental policy changes in education that will have far-reaching implications for decades to come," she said. "Of course it's one of those situations where there should be consultation on what direction this province is going to take."

Lamrock's public statements about his intention to consult widely on the matter created an implicit obligation for him to do so, Ménard added.

In seeking the judicial review, parents had argued that Lamrock's decision violated a contract with them and infringed on language equality rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nowhere in the affidavit does Kershaw directly address the Charter issues, but he denies there is any enforceable contract created when a child is pre-registered for admission, saying the programs are offered on a "where numbers warrant" basis.

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