LBPSB accused of misusing school taxes
Last week’s debacle at Greendale School in Pierrefonds has left more than just distraught parents trying to figure out what happened. Now the Quebec government is looking into what went wrong.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) had been charging parents $100 per month—which amounts to less than $5 per day—for a pre-kindergarten service at Greendale, which Quebec Ministry of the Family (MFA) inspectors precipitously shut down, April 30.
“I feel very sad for these young parents who were led to believe this,” sympathized Eustace. “However, it is good that the government is putting its foot down.”
The losers are the four-year-olds, their parents and private day care clients, Eustace explained.
“LBPSB didn’t receive any extra money from Quebec City to create new pre-kindergarten programs for four-year-olds—so it subsidized them out of the school board’s existing operating budget, taking money intended for students aged 5-17.”
Parents, four-year olds caught in bureaucratic crossfire
Parents couldn’t fathom why the two Quebec government departments conveyed completely opposite messages.
Greendale parent Laura Bodnick acknowledged that MFA sent her a letter March 22, telling her that the school’s daycare service was illegal.
“It said that they might close the facility as of April 23, but school board officials told us not to worry,” she said “They assured us that nothing would happen before the end of the current school year.”
Family minister Yolande James’ office has asked her department to find out what happened and whether MFA regulations need to be harmonized with Ministry of Education regulations.
“At this stage it’s too soon to say whether this is a problem of harmonization, so we’re looking at the situation,” responded Duchesneau. “When a problem like that arises, we carefully take stock of the entire situation. Is the Greendale problem generalized or is it one of only a handful of problems?”
“The Quebec daycare network is young and still developing,” continued Duchesneau. “As we speak, there are more than 207,000 seven-dollar-a-day daycare places in Quebec, out of a total of 245,000 places, including unsubsidized facilities, which are regulated by the laws of the Quebec Ministry of the Family.”
“So we’re looking at the situation in order to determine to what extent overlapping jurisdictions might have become a problem as the daycare network has evolved during the past 15 years or so.”
Those figures don’t include daycare places in Quebec schools, for children aged five or more, which are governed by the Education Act.
Quebec does subsidize pre-kindergarten for underprivileged children, Mr. Mills said. However, he cited a 2006 Quebec English School Board Association report that suggested that pre-kindergarten might benefit four-year-olds from advantaged families, as well.
However, he did not offer why LBPSB opted to use school taxes to subsidize middle-class parents when it created the program at Greendale.
Quebec’s English school boards have been plagued by falling enrolment for decades, since restrictive language laws and a subsequent exodus from the province cut its English-speaking population by half and restricted entry to English schools.
Greendale four-year olds now face a slow, 5.3 km LBPSB-subsidized bus ride during rush hour every school day to get from Pierrefonds to their new school premises in Pointe Claire. Parents are required to pick their children up there at the end of each school day.