Fresh protest from faculty
Premier Kathy Dunderdale signalled Thursday she won’t back down on a move to privatize adult basic education services in the province, despite a fresh call for her to reconsider, coming from faculty at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA).
The CNA teachers sent a three-page open letter to Dunderdale, saying the move to privatize adult basic education (ABE) “will result in drastic changes to the province’s college system with serious financial and social costs to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
The letter disputes the numbers Dunderdale has been using to justify the cuts, and takes aim at some of the other core arguments for them.
The letter is signed by “concerned faculty” and ends by saying the cuts will have a serious impact to the economy and social makeup of the province.
“Our province is at a crucial crossroads. With a looming skilled worker shortage and the need for an educated workforce at an all time high, it is vital that your government make investment in our public college system a priority!”
When the issue came up in question period in the House of Assembly Thursday, Dunderdale focused on that final sentence; she said the government is already making education a priority.
“Mr. Speaker, we have done that since we received the White Paper on Education. We are going to continue to do that, and we are going to answer the letter and the points in the letter put to us by the Faculty of CNA,” Dunderdale said. “We are not going to pay more for less. Our motto is to pay less for more, for a better result.”
Dunderdale said she would reply to the CNA faculty’s letter, rebutting some of the points it made.
The backbone of the government’s argument for privatizing ABE programs is that 60 per cent of students doing government-funded classes take them through private providers, and the 40 per cent of who students study at the College of the North Atlantic costs thousands of dollars more per student.
In the House, Liberal House leader Andrew Parsons argued that by privatizing the service, for-profit colleges will push to make the service “quick and cheap” and that may not be best for students.
New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby also dealt with the issue, saying the government needs to release more information about its decision.
“ABE instructors are asking if government’s program completion figures show that many ABE students at the College of the North Atlantic transfer their credits back to high school in order to receive a high school diploma instead of an ABE diploma from CNA,” he said. “Will the minister finally clear the air and release the full details of the ABE enrolment and graduation analysis that was carried out to justify government’s decision to privatize the program?”
Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea responded to the question, but did not release the documents Kirby requested.