Right to an education in English:
The WQSB launches English-schooling campaign
The Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) is launching a campaign to inform Quebecers of their right to obtain English-language education in Québec.
“What we are reminding parents, grandparents, residents that they should maintain their eligibility to send their children to an English school,” James Shea, WQSB Chairman, told The Bulletin. “Even parents who send their children to a French school, but who also have the eligibility us an English school, should apply for that eligibility, whether they use it or not, because the eligibility is transferable. It becomes part of the family rights and is transferable from one generation to the next.”
The WQSB has enclosed an explanatory leaflet in school tax bills. The bilingual insert asks the reader if they want their child to get an English education, for a bilingual future. The document lists criteria that would grant parents the right to send their child to an English-language school.
Parents should contact the WQSB to determine their family’s eligibility if, for example, one of the parents is in the Canadian Armed Forces, temporarily posted in Québec, or if the child or the child’s sibling is receiving or has received the majority of their primary or secondary schooling in English in Canada and at least one parent is a Canadian citizen.
“(The rules are) not as restrictive as you might think and if you believe you are eligible, contact the WQSB office,” said Mr. Shea. “We want to facilitate registration and encourage the community to contact the school board.”
Most calls to the WQSB are about tax rates. The WQSB rate is lower than the Commission scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais (CSPO) and some taxpayers want to switch.
The tax rate is lower because, in a nutshell, the WQSB’s student population is lower as compared to other boards, meaning the WQSB needs less money to operate. “We can’t make the change from one school board to another for this taxation year, but we can for next school year,” added Paul Lamoureux, WQSB Director General.
The WQSB is not shy about promoting their lower tax rate because, as Mr. Shea explained, “It is important for an English-language school board to demonstrate a significant tax base. The payment of additional taxes to a school board does not increase the revenue availability for the education of children. If we get the revenue in taxes, we don’t get the revenue from the province.” The amount to educate a child is fixed across the province; with a larger tax base, the WQSB gains more weight during negotiations.
“You can support a school system by sending your child to that school system or you can demonstrate that support by paying your taxes to that school board,” noted Mr. Shea.
According to Mr. Lamoureux, parents who use a WQSB school will not be disappointed. “English-language students will have the opportunity to learn French. This is critical. We offer instruction in both English and French. Immersion programs are a form of enrichment.”
French-language schools also offer English-language education, but minimally according to Lamoureux. “They follow the regulations and the number of instructions in English are limited while our second-language training is not limited because (it’s a bonus if) we are offering more French in Québec,” added Lamoureux.
This campaign could generate a backlash from groups defending the French language in Québec, and Mr. Shea is aware of this.
“If there’s a backlash we will deal with it. We have the right and responsibility to provide English-language education. We have the responsibility to advise our community with respect to the children’s rights. We will be most welcoming if parents select to send their children to English school system. This is not political, it’s an educational message,” said Shea.