Democracy is hard. But it can work.

When the Government of PEI released its Capital Budget for 2012-2013 in November of 2011, the first thing I noticed was a drastic cut — $500,000 to $0 — for a line item called “Computer Refresh.” It sounded innocuous enough — “sprucing up” the technology, I took it to mean.

It turns out that line item represented all spending on education technology — computers, scanners, LCD projectors, everything. And the government was deciding to spend $0 on that for a year.

This move by the province inspired a series of resolutions at the 2012 Annual General Meeting of the PEI Home and School Federation; beyond the resolution to restore the funding itself was a resolution that I proposed to “Rename the Capital Budget Line Item for Information Technology.” I wanted to make sure that in future capital budgets this spending wasn’t hidden behind the term “Computer Refresh” and, instead, had a more accurate description of what it actually meant. The resolution passed.

In June of 2012, the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development responded to our resolution: “Thank you for this recommendation and I will ask my staff to make a request to have this capital line budget name changed.”

And, true to his word, when the Capital Budget for 2013-2014 was released yesterday the line-item was changed to “Classroom Technology.” Which, to my mind, is about as good a description for that this money is for as you can come up with.

2013-2014 budget screen shot

It took a good amount of time and energy by a large group of people to make happen: I had to write a resolution, bring it forward to the board of the PEI Home and School Federation as a proposed resoluition for the Annual Meeting and get it accepted; the resolution then had to be distributed to 53 local home and schools across the province for discussion and debate, and then delegates from those schools had to come to Charlottetown for the Annual Meeting where the resolution was read, discussed and voted on. The successful resolution then had to go to the Minister for consider, where I presume it was discussed with his staff, and he had to make a decision to make the change. And then the change itself had to flow through the capital budget process and into the budget process.

To change two words.

But they are two important words and they will only get more important as classroom technology becomes more central to the learning process.

This isn’t glamouous democracy — it’s work down in the engine room rather than out on deck — but I’m happy to have gone through the process, happy that my fellow parents worked to make this happen, and happy that the next person who comes across the Capital Budget will understand it just a little bit better.


Jevon's picture
Jevon on November 29, 2012 - 21:36

The work you are doing with schools is awesome in it’s simplicity but the impact in the long run is going to be important. Thank you Peter.

- Jevon

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