Friday, March 25, 2011

What you won't hear in the next 36 days

A quick thought on what you'll never hear during the pending federal election campaign that should end in early May (I'm betting election day will be my first day back in an office). You won't hear any of the federal parties speaking about K-12 education.
It's easy to understand why-- education is a provincial responsibility, and the K-12 component of it is something that federal governments have never really -- or at least publicly -- shown an eagerness to wade into. Right back to the original British North America Act of 1867 education has been a responsibility of the provinces.
Which is not to suggest there are zero federal dollars in our schools. There are pots of federal funding that dribble through the provinces to schools for things such as French-immersion programs and resources, not to mention the investment by several federal departments in content and programming clearly aimed at the K-12 set in scope and destination.
It's interesting to ponder this particular division of responsibilities because when you look at post-secondary education, the line hasn't been as clearly established. Yes, colleges and universities are provincial animals, but remove federal funding from this sector and you decimate it. Being here at Massey has broadened my awareness of the granting councils and how much money they pour into (usually) graduate and faculty research. The country's largest universities, its most research-intensive ones, would be shells of themselves in many respects if the federal taps stopped flowing.
The federal Liberal government at the turn of the last decade took the most offensive step into provincial education, if you give any weight to the provinces who complained about it, when it established the Millenium Scholarships. Even so, the provinces were mostly pissy because the money went straight to students from the feds.
Could you imagine a federal government that would dare such a thing for K-12 schools?
We are a unique beast in that sense. Many if not most other federal states around the world have some sort of federal presence in K-12 either through curriculum, policy, funding or all of the above. Even in the good ol' U.S. of A., probably the most local school system I've been directly exposed to, the federal government's education department plays a huge role.
Is it time to consider this? Well, as much as I might dream it (think: federal education reporter? *sigh* I can only keep rubbing that oil lamp...) I don't think any party would come within 100 metres of this and I also don't think any province would let them.


Anonymous said...

In his presser today Michael Ignatieff did mention ELPs for all Canadians and then pretty much regifted the old Red Book.

Interesting that Dalton McGuinty's budget mirrored that of Harper's and McGuinty (via the TorStar) is distancing himself from Ignatieff.

Have noticed education blogs very, very scant for participants & discussion these days.

Education Reporter said...

True, the Liberals (and NDP) have been consistent in language and support for early learning and childcare support. The Dryden plan was axed in favour of direct-to-families cash.

All of which still isn't K-12. Related, interconnected, but not the same thing.