Governance

Questions About School Fees

students standing in line
Montreal - Monday, July 16, 2018

As you may be aware, a class action suit was filed in 2013 against all Quebec public school boards concerning fees charged to parents. The reasoning behind this legal recourse was to ensure that each Québec child receives a free education.

Over the past few weeks, the parents who instituted this legal recourse came to an agreement, in principle, with the school boards of Quebec. The Courts should ratify this agreement sometime this summer. The parties to this agreement-in-principle expected the ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement (MEES) to take part in this settlement.

Guidelines related to school fees were established more than 50 years ago and remained unrevised. The MEES agrees that those guidelines no longer reflect today’s reality regarding current student needs. Therefore, on June 7, 2018, the MEES issued a Directive with regard to school fees. The Minister of Education, Mr. Sébastien Proulx, subsequently conducted a press conference.

I recognize that a lot of parents have questions, so here is some information I can share.

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIAL
The Minister of Education has stated that all fees charged to parents must be reasonable. He has obliged all school boards to ensure that fees charged to parents are as minimal as possible while respecting and reaffirming the professional autonomy of teachers in their choice of items that are to be purchased by parents.

FIELD TRIPS
The Minister of Education plans to undertake a consultative process which will begin in the fall of 2018 and lead to an amendment of the Education Act by the spring of 2019. Hopefully, this initiative will provide greater clarity on the question of what should be free and what parents may choose to pay for.

Activities and field trips that are directly related to the classroom programs taught and for which the students are evaluated, shall be free.

Conversely, optional complementary activities and field trips such as a visit to the zoo, a ski day, out-of-country trips, may be charged to parents.

SPECIAL PROJECTS SCHOOLS
The Minister clearly mentioned that special project schools may continue to charge some fees to parents. It is therefore permitted for schools to charge parents third-party fees. Examples include providers of goods or services closely related to a particular program, such as fees for sports federations, external coaching, rental of arenas outside of school property, or International Baccalaureate fees.

Nonetheless, the principle of free education still applies to these programs for educational services provided, instructional material related to the program, registration and entrance exam fees, as well as goods and services offered by the school related to these programs. 

Furthermore, human resource costs related to the coordination and administration of these programs may not be charged to parents. Neither can the use of school property or materials like novels, dictionaries, grammar books, etc. This principle applies to specialized programs as well. 

TRANSPORTATION FEES
Regular transportation to and from school during the regular school day is free for students within their designated transportation zone.  Where available, transportation to attend a school outside of a student’s transportation zone can be charged. Lunch hour transportation and accommodation busing may also be charged to parents.

STUDENT SUPERVISION
Daycare fees may be charged in accordance with the MEES budgetary rules.
Lunch hour supervision may also be charged to parents.

CONCLUSION

All fees charged to parents must be reasonable and must respect the actual costs of the services provided.

The nine English Schools Boards in Quebec are committed to the following three principles:

  1. Working with our parents, teachers and the Ministry of Education to clarify which fees can be charged in the future and which cannot;
  2. Ensuring that the public school system continues to thrive; and
  3. Ensuring that our students receive the best educational experience. 

As we receive more clarification on this subject, our school communities will be informed.

Angela Mancini

Chairman, English Montreal School Board

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