School boards’ status quo time has passed

Since 2008, the Quebec government has warned school boards unless they improve voter turnout there will be changes. It made no sense that trustees (commissioners in Quebec) elected by so few people would control $2 billion or about 22 per cent of the education budget.

Last November, voter participation in the French sector was about five per cent. The English sector increased by a puny 0.18 per cent, and that’s after seven years to prepare, and a social media blitz with debates—televised and webcast—meetings, advertisements and so on.

Recently, representatives of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) were with the Canadian School Boards Association, in Victoria. The QESBA also invited its French counterpart—the FCSQ.

Of course, the taxpayer picks up the tab of a few thousand dollars, as they did for the Nashville, Tennessee, convention, three weeks ago, and will for the Quebec City conference in a couple of weeks.

They were in Victoria to rally support in their fight to maintain the status quo because the government has rightfully decided to consider scraping very costly school board elections with something that is more democratic.

Most troubling, in this story, is the QESBA, is as always, playing the language card. Ditching of school board elections has nothing to do with dismissing English education minority rights.

The electorate simply has no confidence in this system of educational governance, and the government is promising something better.

Moreover, consider these facts:

1. About 15-17 per cent of children who are eligible to attend English schools, have parents who have chosen either private or French schools.

2. Three French school boards have disaffiliated themselves from their provincial association because of financial matters, and issues dealing with ethics.

In Canada, there is a growing realization that elected school boards have become nothing more than self-serving institutions, which are of no real pedagogical or economic value for any student, classroom or school.

Indeed, it is time to modernize our elected school board systems.

Chris Eustace

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