Education Minister Clyde Jackman is refusing to intervene in a controversial reorganization of several schools in Mount Pearl, even though his cabinet colleague Steve Kent has already spoken out about it.
Trustees with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District voted to change St. Peter's Elementary and Newtown Elementary, with the former changing from a K-6 school to K-3 and the latter turning from a K-6 to a 4-6. The changes come as the board also overhauls schools in the nearby Goulds area of St. John's.
Some parents have opposed the move as disruptive, and have won support from Kent, the municipal affairs minister, who is also the MHA for Mount Pearl North.
"I was deeply disappointed that parents weren't heard. I was deeply disappointed that I wasn't heard," said Kent, whose child is going through the Mount Pearl system.
"In the case of St. Peter's Elementary and Newtown Elementary, it's just wrong."
Opposition Leader Dwight Ball said he wanted to know why Jackman was not listening to the concerns of local parents.
"The minister of education has been sidestepping decisions made by the English School Board when it comes to a lack of resources and overcrowding at several schools," Ball said.
"He has repeatedly said he would not intervene, but the minister of municipal affairs has no problem second-guessing the planning process."
Will not interfere: minister
Jackman said Kent is free to have his own opinion on board decisions, but as education minister he will not be getting involved.
"My door is open, but let me make something very clear," Jackman said.
"We have a board that is independent of government, established under the Schools Act ... I have not interfered in their decision making, nor will I in this particular case."
Meanwhile, Liberal Paul Lane, who represents Mount Pearl South, also needled the government about the issue at the House of Assembly on Monday, and criticized how "the unelected English school board" imposed a decision that will have what he called a "devastating impact" on students and their families.
"Will he now do the right thing and intervene in this matter so that the board is provided with the proper financial resources to do what is right for our children’s education and not government’s bottom line?" Lane asked.
Jackman turned the tables on Lane, who crossed the floor in January, when he left the Progressive Conservative caucus.
"I find it a little bit ironic that when the honorable member was over here, he talked about the restructuring of the system. He said, 'Do you know what? There's gonna be people upset out there, but we have to do it because it is needed,' " Jackman said of Lane.
"There is some space out there where we can reorganize and put students. It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that we do get people who play politics with children’s education."
Kent, meanwhile, said he will continue to lobby for a different decision.