Planning for better education
Regina Public Schools knows best on how to ensure equal education for all
Author: Sebastien Potvin
It was recently announced on Feb. 23, 2015, that high school students in the Regina Public School Division would be assigned their schools based on geography, starting this fall. Though this does not rectify every issue with the public school system, especially in Regina’s urban setting, I do think it is a major step forward in bringing more equality and equity to students, staff, and the institutions themselves. In short, Regina’s public schools have been suffering from either over- or under-population in terms of student numbers. The new forced-assignment of high schools in what is coined the “High School Strategy” by the Division seeks to eliminate this imbalance by assigning students to their ‘neighbourhood’ school.
As outlined in their online consultation, the Division and its stakeholders have deemed it necessary to undertake a rebalancing of student numbers. Firstly, this means some schools are either over or under capacity. This does not make sense from an education or community standpoint, as more and more students are crammed into single classrooms – and therefore suffer from a disadvantageous teacher-to-student ratio. Redistributing students will even out student numbers for staff, who should see a more equitable change in the numbers of students. It is well known that students suffer adversely in crammed rooms.
Secondly, this also makes administrative and bureaucratic sense. We have all witnessed Regina grow over the last decade and a half, if not more. We know that immigration, whether from other Canadian jurisdictions or from outside the country, is absolutely fuelling our demographic growth in the city. Regina’s Public School Division cannot be faulted for strategizing in advance for obvious trends – namely, growth in student numbers. By implementing this new strategy as early as possible, the Division is avoiding what could later become a planning nightmare. If allowing students to choose their high school was continued, then the Division would have no choice but to spend money on expanding school infrastructure. This is a ridiculous proposition when already-existing school establishments are already standing and able to absorb more students. Provincial money should be used on necessary projects, and not to build more classrooms when they already exist.
Lastly, as schools are largely funded by the number of students attending a particular establishment, it becomes all the more urgent to have the under-populated schools be more fairly represented by the true number of students present in the area. An under-populated school is accordingly more prone to underfunding, and therefore cannot provide the same number (or quality) of programs and specialized courses. In this case, the aim is to provide a more levelled playing field between the traditionally ‘richer’ and ‘poorer’ high schools, and ensure a consistency in programming available to every student in this city, regardless of their socio-economic background or neighbourhood.
Childhood education should not be a privilege that can be revoked or stymied because of unfair distribution in student populations, and by extension of education funding. Rather, as a society, we have already decided that every child should have access to standardized education, on par with what every other student receives. This is called equity, and it means starting off every child, as best we can, with the same educational foundation. This new High School Strategy is not a magic bullet. The reality of the difficulties faced by high schools in socio-economically underprivileged sectors of the city remains. The opposite is true for the richer areas of the city. This is the sad travesty of our ghettoizing habits in Regina. At least our Public School Division is looking at alternatives and solutions for the sake of child education.