School boards and Bill 86
The Couillard government’s withdrawal of Bill 86, which would have abolished local school board elections, was good news. But it is not a victory for minority-language education rights within our province. A victory will come when the school boards, WQSB included, become integral parts of those minority communities, rather than an arm of the Quebec City bureaucracy.
What could be more local than neighbourhood schools? But what we have now is local involvement by individual schools and teachers, but not by the board as a whole and certainly not by the Ministry of Education.
Election participation rates measure the success of that integration, and right now it’s almost non-existent. How do the school boards themselves get closer to their communities? They have to get to work – focussed on this problem (besides others); it cannot be number 10 on the list of ten goals for each board. Obviously, school board elections must be promoted, and not merely a month or two before the election. This requires public-image and educational campaigns in local media. This ought to include identifying and soliciting candidates for school commission elections to provide a viable (and interesting) campaign.
Real issues have to be addressed—those issues identified by local parents, rather than by civil servants in the Ministry of Education.
School boards have to be brought into their communities and the best way is to associate the boards with common ambitions and campaigns in each location. If a school board is held by the ministry and its bureaucrats to be something above other community agencies and issues, we can’t expect citizens to bother to vote.
The old idea that school boards are one part of a minority population’s cultural infrastructure is obviously not shared by the ministry. The government may masquerade to this effect, but it is disguising the boards’ real role as a tool for the control of communities (by the central office) and not part of a community’s control of their own needs and destiny. To demonstrate this point, try asking the ministry if we in the Outaouais can upgrade our history courses to reflect the real role of the Anglo minority here!
If individual schools themselves are seen as key-stones for their communities, then the boards managing those schools must also see themselves in this community role. They are not each Enforcers, sent by the central government.
School boards do pay a crucial socio-economic role within each community – no matter if the government, MNAs, and board employees argue otherwise. How could anyone believe that a school board has no social-economic role within its community? Ridiculous! As is the same view applied to the health system.
School boards hire local people, teach local kids, buy local goods, supplies and services, lease local buildings, transportation – local, local, local. It’s impossible to separate school boards from their connections to their communities.
And if they are to be separate, tell us again why we should bother to vote for Quebec City’s tools?