Report on April 20th Meeting with Minister of Education
By Gerald Huebner
MACHS representatives Ian Mogilevsky (President), Len Bergsma (Treasurer), Diane Kroeker (Newsletter Editor and web graphics), Cheryl Ronald (conference committee member and leader), and Gerald Huebner (Secretary) met with Minister Ian Wishart at the Legislature. It was a very cordial and productive meeting where we were able to relay concerns directly to the minister and ask for his support on important issues.
We were able to recognize the reality that the right to home education has always been the case in Manitoba (since start of MB in 1870). Ian was able to thank minister for sending MLA James Teitsma to bring greetings at MACHS conference in March and Ian invited Minister Wishart to come to 2018 MACHS conference.
We began with the MACHS foundational principle that home education is a fundamental human right. The ability of parents to choose and direct education is clearly recognized internationally as a basic human right and must be protected and not compromised. As stated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) Article 26 part 3 “parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 18, paragraph 4 that “the States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions”. We were able to share with the minister copies of the “Berlin Declaration” and “Rio Principles”.
We raised with the minister the frustration that issues are coming up often where officials in Manitoba Education (Home School Liaison officers) go significantly beyond the Public Schools Act and miscommunicate to parents. We gave the following examples:
- Parents being told they need to talk to MB Ed officials in order to be granted permission to home educate.
- Parents being told they must allow home visits in order for Mb Education to provide ongoing permission for home education.
- Parents are being asked for additional information on educational outcomes and additional information requested and indicated as “required”
- Parents are being told that there are specific curriculum requirements that must be met, such as science and social studies in each of the senior years.
- Parents are being told that notifications and progress reports if not completed in full detail will result in “non-recognition” of a home education program and MB Ed will not be able provide a letter to post-secondary institutions on behalf of the student to support admission.
We pointed to the strong and successful examples of non- intrusive legal frameworks in other jurisdictions. We asked the minister to follow the examples of the Province of British Columbia in Canada and of the United Kingdom where the legal requirements are both non-intrusive and clear.
- We asked of the Minster that the principle of “notification” vs. “registration” be enforced and reflected clearly in any communications, regulations and policies. That the principle be communicated clearly that permission is not required, rather that parents have the clear right to choose and direct the education of their children according to their beliefs and values. The only information required of parents is to be limited and specific, only that specifically required under the Act, with any further requests for information and particularly “home visits” requiring formal notice with just cause declared. We feel that MB Education would not need the level of staff that are currently devoted to home education if this was adopted as the philosophy driving MB Ed. Further we asked the Minster to ensure continuation of present responsibility on a provincial basis
- We asked the minster to ensure recognition of home education, given the requirement by law that children are receiving an “equivalent” education. We asked that the minister direct that this be properly recognized to provide for a smooth and logical recognition of home education programs by post-secondary institutions and a smooth entry system for home school students into these institutions. We were able to share copies of the significant research that has been done that shows that home education works well.
- We raised the issue of lack of access to non-educational health services and special needs and requested that the minister ensure access for home school families to needed special government services that may or may not be delivered by Manitoba Education, such as speech therapy and other forms of non-educational services.
- We asked that the minister continue to ensure the potential for collaborative arrangements whereby schools can partner with families in home education (illustrated by the then Sisler and Churchill high school programs and many other local arrangements over the years). These schools for example, offer services to families who are free to choose the level of involvement and then the school receives funding for whatever portion of the program that the student is enrolled.
- Last we communicated to the minister the long standing MACHS position opposing any direct funding of home education programs. We pointed out the very significant cost savings to the provincial treasury as a result of parents bearing the full cost of education.
The minister committed to the ongoing freedom of parents to choose to home educate in Manitoba and ongoing dialogue with MACHS. The minister committed to examination of the issues raised and a further meeting to discuss these. Ian was able to share that MACHS families are praying for the minister in his challenging role in dealing with the public education system.