Quebec introduces bill to axe school board elections, empower parents and schools

Quebec introduces bill to axe school board elections, empower parents and schools

Quebec Education Minister Francois Blais tabled a bill Friday that would eliminate provincewide school board elections and give more decision-making power to parents and schools.

The bill provides for a “more decentralized” system, while stopping short of reducing the number of school boards or eliminating them altogether, Blais told a news conference.

Voter turnout in school-board elections last year was estimated at around five per cent.

Blais said the elections cost the province $15 million every four years, a sum that does not include byelections.

The proposed changes are aimed at giving parents an increased role at all levels of school governance and ensuring decisions are made by the people closest to students, he said.

“To place the people who interact with students on a daily basis at the heart of the decision-making process is to centre our school system on the needs of those students,” Blais noted.

The legislation would replace each school board’s council of commissioners with a council made up of parents, school staff and community members.

School boards would no longer automatically hold elections, although parents would have the option to trigger an election to select the council’s community representatives.

The school council members, unlike school commissioners, would not receive a salary, which Blais estimated would save the province an additional $10 million a year.

Each school board would also be asked to form a committee led by school staff to look at how resources are distributed.

Blais said schools would be given more flexibility to direct portions of their budgets to their own specific requirements.

“Schools will be more able to make choices adapted to their situation, notably when they serve students with particular needs,” he said.

A Quebec federation that represents parent committees welcomed the increased role for parents proposed under the new bill.

“With this bill, the government recognises the parents…as privileged actors in the community and values their competences,” federation president Corinne Payne said in a statement.

A group representing the province’s school boards issued a statement, however, accusing Blais of shaking up organizational structures without doing anything to favour school success.

In May, the head of the Canadian School Boards Association presented a letter to Premier Philippe Couillard, signed by school board presidents from eight provinces, in support of maintaining elected boards.

“As education leaders across the country, we are deeply disturbed by the ongoing dilution of local elected school board authority and the erosion of every community’s exclusive right to manage and control its education system,” it read.

The Canadian Press

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