|SIX ENGLISH AND FRENCH SCHOOL BOARDS UNVEIL NEW JOINT BRIEF OPPOSING BILL 86|
MONTREAL, APRIL 7, 2016- The chairs of six English and French school boards on the island of Montreal and the Laurentians held a rare joint press conference on Thursday, April 7 at Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount. At this time they unveiled a new brief on Bill 86, which proposes a re-structuring of school board governance that limits the public’s right to vote for commissioners.
This brief will be sent to the Minister of Education, Quebec’s different political parties and organizations which have made presentations at public hearings in the National Assembly. It encompasses the common views of the six English and French boards, which represent 283,000 students, 508 schools, 40,500 employees and total budgets of $2.5 billion.
Speaking on behalf of their boards were: Miville Boudreault, chair of la commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-L’Île (CSPÎ); Catherine Harel Bourdon, chair of la commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM); Louise Lortie, chair of the commission scolaire de Laval (CSDL); Jennifer Maccarone, chair of the Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier School Board (SWLSB) ; Angela Mancini, chair of the English Montreal School Board (EMSB); and Suanne Stein Day, chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB). These school boards are represented by 72 elected officials and 23 parent commissioners.
The approach and the proposals put forward by the Liberal government, first by the Minister François Blais, then Minister Pierre Moreau and now by his successor Minister Sébastien Proulx, naturally led the elected representatives of the school board councils to come together to speak with one voice about the many concerns, questions and recommendations related to Bill 86.
For decades, regular as clockwork and regardless of the reigning parties, the government has questioned the role and the spirit of the model of school boards and, primarily, their governance.
The coalition lists six principles that should govern the joint actions of government and elected school councils:
1) Education belongs to the people.
2) Student success is at the heart of every decision made by elected school councils.
3) Perseverance and achievement targets must be achieved.
4) Public education in Quebec is subject to change.
5)The election law and the mode of election for school commissioners must be changed.
6) School commissioners are working collaboratively with staff, parents and principals.
The coalition wishes to showcase success of the Committee of the School Tax Management on the Island of Montreal (CGTSIM), the governance of which has been provided by elected officials, responsible and accountable to the people for tax collection over the past 30 years. Should there be a disappearance of elected school representatives, the issue of management of the taxes would remain unanswered.
This coalition is favorable towards increased power of parents, in particular by exercising the right to vote at school board meetings. But it is important to remember that a large proportion of elected commissioners are themselves parents and therefore have the motivation to develop a school in line with the expectations of local parents. The abolition of school elections in favor of appointed and unpaid commissioners would lead to demolishing a vital bridge between all stakeholders in the public school system and replace it with volunteers saddled with a high expectation of participation in many dossiers and a loss of independence.
Copies of the briefs are being posted on the websites of each school board.
Michael J. Cohen