Snobelen kicked out of schools
By Sara Marett
Last Friday's cabinet shuffle by Premier Mike Harris ushered former Minister of Education and Training John Snobelen out the door and welcomed David Johnson to fill his shoes. There are worries in the education sector, however, that changing the messenger does not necessarily change existing problems.
Former Minister of Education and Training John Snobelen visited Western last March.
The most recent educational issues involving the government have been surrounding Bill 160, which proposes reform to the public education system. Universities, however, will also be effected by a new Minister in charge.
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance executive director Barry McCartan said the change of ministers may slow the process of post-secondary educational changes such as the implementation of a new student loan program. "I think we need to put this change into context Snobelen never did that much on the university side of things," McCartan said.
The real question, McCartan said, is whether the new Minister will do anything in the university sector beyond implementing a new income-contingent loan repayment program.
McCartan said if Johnson is going to implement any changes, he would have to do so quickly, as there are only two years left of the Harris term and no drastic changes would be made in the year of an election.
Johnson is known to be fair minded and sensible, but no one knows his opinions on university issues, McCartan explained. "He seems like a reasonable kind of person we could sit down and discuss something with."
He does not seem as dependent on others when making decisions as Snobelen was and certainly has the educational background Snobelen lacks, McCartan added.
Bruce Smith, Middlesex's Member of Provincial Parliament, was parliamentary assistant to Snobelen and will now be Johnson's new assistant. He said the government's intentions as far as Bill 160 is concerned have not changed with the appointment of a new Minister.
The talks between the government and the teachers' federations must move beyond the philosophical level, Smith said. "If the new minister can accomplish this it would be good." He said the government needs the teachers to now provide more details and suggest amendments to the bill for the government to consider.
Heather Wice, chair of London's Board of Education, said what has been recently going on concerning educational reform is more the agenda of the government and less the agenda of the Minister. She said the recent debate over Bill 160 incorporated a lot of personal issues between teachers' groups and Minister Snobelen.
With a new Minister we may now be able to talk more freely and hopefully he will tell us how we can help improve things, Wice said.