Adult education tender raises big questions

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Government is in the giving mood again. They have a history of giving generous gifts.

They gave a free pass to OCI, allowing them to export unprocessed fish to China.

They gave a loan of $90 million to Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

They gave tax-credits to the tune of about $400 million to multi-national companies including Vale-Inco and IOC.

Now they are giving Adult Basic Education (ABE) contracts to private colleges.

The government tender issued on May 24 to secure ABE services for next year has the effect of automatically awarding ABE contracts to private colleges in all communities where they currently offer ABE.

The release accompanying the tender states: “Students attending CNA in a region where ABE is also delivered by a private institution or community group will be assisted in their move to a current service provider.”

No review

The tender call effectively exempts private colleges from undergoing a

thorough public review to determine whether or not they meet the minimum requirements of a successful bid, as defined by the tender.   

Back in April, a representative of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges responded to College of the North Atlantic student-led protests objecting to ABE privatization, stating that students should not be concerned about a transition to private schools since the majority of them would have the entirety of their tuition paid for by the government.

There is far more to education than simply paying tuition.

No assurances were given to students that comparable facilities and quality services would be available at private college ABE delivery sites.

Libraries, gymnasiums and computer labs help to ensure student success.

Disability services and group health insurance available at the public college give students who have complex needs access to vital resources.

Staff choices

Moreover, government is turning ABE delivery over to private colleges which in some regions of the province have the practice of exclusively hiring retired teachers to staff their ABE departments.

This hiring trend has occurred because retired teachers who collect a government pension are willing to work for reduced wages.

This, in turn, lowers operating costs for private colleges and maximizes profits for the owners and operators.

Shouldn’t we ask who stands to benefit from government’s recent policy change and preferential tender call?  

U.S. President James Madison stated, “A well-instructed people alone can be a permanently free people.”

A government that values freedom makes public education a priority.

A government should not automatically award contracts for essential educational services to its political supporters, nor should it cater to corporate interests.

We need wise investments in areas such as Adult Basic Education in order to address the literacy needs of our citizens and to prepare our people for the future.

All citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador are the beneficiaries of such investments.

Russell Rideout writes from Burin Bay Arm.

Organizations: CNA, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Career Colleges

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Where does government get the information
    June 13, 2013 - 09:58

    Where does government get the information from which they base their decisions? Themselves? They have all the educational facilities, resources, budget and regulatory responsibilities but getting educated at a private business is cheaper? Oh come on. I mean it just does not make any sense. They are about as transparent as a piece of cellophane and just as deep.

  • Student
    June 12, 2013 - 16:09

    I don't believe the government has any idea of what this is going to do in the long run. In my opinion it hasn't been thought out very well and there wasn't enough information provided about it before they decided to just cut the ABE program. They want this province to better itself, have people working and not on welfare, well you have just taken away a great thing that was being provided at a fair cost. Having a high school diploma opens up far more possibilities for jobs and it takes a lot for some people to be able to go back to school and get it. Some are older and are have been out of school for years, and for them to want to finish their education and get their diploma after all that time, takes courage. Some of the students who haven't received their diploma may not return to the program because of what is happening and that is a real shame.

  • Another Business man
    June 12, 2013 - 12:53

    Quality?! It comes down to this: do you want quality education with highly qualified unionized teachers who are interested in the needs of the students (who are not you or me) or do you want LOWER TAXES? Would you deny BUSINESS MAN and others the opportunity to make more money for themselves or are you some kind of SOCIALIST? To Business man: with all due respect, why do you only disagree with publically-funded adult education? Much money can be made educating children throgh private education voucher schemes. Think big, man!

  • Tony Rockel
    June 12, 2013 - 11:53

    This government's plan is seemingly to turn the entire province into a hunting and fishing lodge for visiting millionaires and billionaires. For this purpose, they'll need lots of uneducated serfs, willing to wait hand and foot on their wealthy visitors.

  • Ed
    June 12, 2013 - 10:48

    As is the case with most government tendering the lowest bid is often the lowest quality. Offering ABE to the lowest bidder will result in low quality as well. Those adults who are willing to upgrade their education deserve every benefit that we can offer. The benefits to them and our society would be great.

  • Ed Power
    June 12, 2013 - 09:13

    Please, Mr. "Businessman", keep us in suspense no longer! Confirm what we have all long suspected. Are you indeed Danny Williams? Surely you must be. None other than he has so vast and varied a business empire in our humble lands. Those of us who regularly follow your comments have learned that you are a lawyer, and that own and operate a large variety of enterprises in our province. Fast food restaurants, call centres, convenience stores, private education, so many, that I'm beginning to lose track of them all. Surely someone as as Trump-ian and Williams-like as yourself will overcome his innate modesty and reveal himself to us poor plebes and serfs, so that we might bask in the glow of your enormousness and learn how to honour you in the manner to which you wish to become accustomed. Please, Sir, reveal yourself to your poor huddled masses yearning to serve you!

    • a business man
      June 13, 2013 - 06:33

      Soory, I am not Trump or WIlliams. I wish I was, and I am trying to be like them, but I am not them. And for the record, I am a lawyer, and I own fast-food restaurants, call centers, convenicence stores and private education centers, but I operate none of them I am just an investor/owner in regards to those businesses. I have never met the employees, and I have no idea what they do or who they are. I am a small time investor compared to Mr. Williams and Mr. Trump, and because I am a lawyer, the money I make from these investments are just side to play with. My salary covers my living expenses and my retirement.

    • To A Business Man
      June 13, 2013 - 10:25

      In your post you mention "side to play with." Sir I hope you don't mind my asking you, but how much money are we're talking about here, sir. Let's say you live in a mansion with a big country home, a fleet of sports cars, jewelry and whatever all else that rich people buy. Let's say that you have more than anyone would ever need or want in several lifetimes. What do you spend your "side money" on? Do you "play with it" outside the province or perhaps even outside the country? Thank you for your candor.

  • crista
    June 12, 2013 - 08:38

    Reading your comments in the past can see you should have very little problems with this coming from your own words and meeting your own requirements to get and have an investment for (ABE) from the powers at large and your grey areas should not be much of a problem, the worries of this article and comments it would leave doubt in government services and basic education and leaves very little hope for the future???? and this comment wrote on past, present and future opinions and freedom of speech and freedom of expression and not being slanderous, and to go by your requirements????

  • a business man
    June 12, 2013 - 06:38

    While I disagree with the premise of taxpayers funded education for adults, I completely see this as a money making opportunity. I will certainly spend some time trying to figure out how to make money off this. I am already involved in a business that delivers private education to students, so it might be easy to set up an ABE program. I will certainly be sure to meet all the requirements, but I certainly will not go the extra mile to give the adults any more than what is required.