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Abbott not sold on Farnworth's education commission

NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth released the details behind his proposed provincial education commission on Friday, but at least one Liberal leadership candidate doesn't see the point in having a commission when it's already clear what the problems the B.C. education system faces.

George Abbott, who served as minister of education for a brief period last fall before resigning to run for the Liberal leadership, believes there is already enough common ground and goals amongst education stakeholders in the province to enable changes without a province-wide commission.

"I think that my understanding coming out of the ministry of education was that we were on the cusp of putting some pretty exciting stuff together with our education partners and I think that I would want to devote our energy to doing that," says Abbott.

"Typically what happens when you put together a commission, no matter how well warranted, is that it does consume a lot of the creative energy for three years, and I don't want that. I think we've got an exciting agenda, and I think that we can build a consensus around that agenda."

The Royal Commission on Education: A Legacy for Learners, the previous provincial education commission overseen by lawyer Barry M. Sullivan, was commissioned in March 1987 and completed in 1988. Farnworth says there is no reason a commission should take years, or couldn't be done in tandem with making other, more urgent changes to B.C. education.

"What I'm proposing certainly doesn't take away from some of the immediate issues that I think government has to address such as the chronic underfunding that exists," he told The Tyee.

"But I think that it's time we as a province take a very comprehensive look at education in British Columbia, where it needs to be over the next 10 or 15 years, 20 years, and do a commission that looks at education in its entirety, so you're not just looking at K-12 but you're looking at how the system works from K-12, but post-secondary education (as well)."

The Tyee contacted the Christy Clark, Mike de Jong, and Kevin Falcon campaigns for but did not receive a response by deadline.

Katie Hyslop reports on education for the Tyee Solutions Society, and is a freelance reporter for a number of other outlets including The Tyee.

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