The Desired Christmas Present from Education Minister Jean-François Roberge
I want to share with the readers the quick glance that I had of the Christmas wish list of the students in the English public schools of our province. Surprisingly, one of the Christmas gifts wished for from the Government of Québec is to continue to allow the English schools to be under the jurisdiction of the nine English school boards.
Why would the students care who ran their schools? Because their parents know that the students in the English public schools in Québec have higher examination results, higher graduation rates, and lower drop-out rates than in the French public schools and surrounding educational jurisdictions as well.
So when the students ask their parents why they are going to school in English when their neighbours go to school in French, the mother and/or the father can explain that Law 101 allows Anglophones to send their children to the school of their choice, but the children of the Francophone parents must attend a French school – they have no access to “freedom of choice”.
Mr. Roberge, we are nervously awaiting your draft legislation to amend An Act respecting school elections E-2.3 and the Education Act I-13.3. We are very anxious to be able to examine the composition of the thirty (30) regional service centres that will manage student and school needs. I can not agree with la Coalition avenir Québec’s intention to trim the budget of six hundred million dollars ($600,000,000.00) that allows the seventy-two (72) school boards in the province to hire some 4,500 school board employees. Need I remind you, Mr. Roberge, that the Philippe Couillard government left you a budget surplus of three billion dollars ($3,000,000,000.00) most of it through austerity measures in education, health, and social services over the last four years.
Mr. Roberge, now is not the time to save money! It is time to reinvest in education as your political party leader Premier François Legault has repeated during numerous recent public appearances.
Mr. Roberge, I am sure that you controlled your boredom during the hours and hours of briefings from your legal advisors regarding Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the Constitution of Canada guaranteeing minority education rights for the management and control of their French schools in the nine other provinces and three territories, and for English schools in Québec. It must have been frustrating for you to hear that Section 33 – the Notwithstanding Clause – can not be applied to Section 23.
Furthermore, it must have caused some further consternation on your part to hear that the Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada recognize through jurisprudence that elected School Boards are the recognized instruments for the management and control of minority schools in Canada.
So, Mr. Roberge, one way that you can be assured that you will save money is to abandon your regional service centre idea to manage student and school needs in the jurisdictions of the present nine English school boards. By allowing the Chairs and Commissioners to be elected by universal suffrage and the Council of Commissioners to select their directors general, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) can concentrate on continuing the delivery of superior educational services to the students enrolled in their schools, and not having to engage constitutional lawyers to challenge your ill-advised pilot project of regional service centers in the jurisdiction of the nine English school boards!
Wishing you, Mr. Roberge, the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years from a retired School Principal.