Letter to the editor 1, Dec. 17, 2015

Dear Editor,

On Dec. 13, 2015, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) held a by-election for a commissioner. The advertisement to come out and vote for "Team Angela Mancini” (chair of EMSB) included this sentence: “The Couillard government is attacking the English community by eliminating our democratic right to vote to elect our School Board Commissioners."

After spending about $50,000 for this unnecessary election, the EMSB could only garner an 8.01 per cent voter turnout. The $50,000 could have been used to hire one teacher or two integration aids to help 'special needs' students.

The following day, Dec. 14, the Lester B. Pearson School Board held a 'Major School Change" meeting to decide which schools to close and/or merge because of declining enrolment.

One reason given for this decline is that Quebec's English schools are not allowed to accept English-speaking students from other countries. However, as was recently stated in a major university study, about 25-30 per cent of students who are eligible for English instruction, attend private or French schools.

Meanwhile, we learn later that day, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), whose vice-president is LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day will be holding a news conference Dec. 16 to not only continue its claim that Bill 86 is a threat to minority-language education rights, but also go over, "… the impact the proposed changes will have on the English speaking minority." The QESBA newsletter says: "community leaders from far and wide are being mobilized for this event.” More dollars!

For the record - again, Bill 86 has nothing to do with the language of instruction. Bill 86 is all about school governance.

Let's take a closer look at the draft bill.

First: The bill focuses on student achievement as its primary aim by giving more decision-making power to parents, teachers, principals and support staff. It is these people who are closest to the student, and as evidence points, the closer the decision-maker is to the student, the higher likelihood of improved student success.

Also, consider a feature of the bill, which calls for a ‘resource allocation committee' manned primarily by school principals. This committee will certainly maximize aid for 'special-needs' students.

Second: By ditching school board elections, which, by extension, gets rid of costly anachronistic elected school boards, the bill eliminates problems dealing with poor democracy, ethics issues, and the general lack of accountability involving finances. The new structure also lends itself to finally end school board secrecy.

Third: Unfortunately, the QESBA is being disingenuous by continually whining that the bill tramples on constitutional minority-language education rights. That is not so.

The bill does provide an option for elections, "with voting being done online." There is no "attack"

Lastly, the bill, simply put, forces the Anglophone and Francophone education communities to catch up to the 21st Century by streamlining the bureaucracy.

For sure, the upcoming hearings of Bill 86 will point out the need for some tightening of rules.

Once that's done, there is no reason, with our high-tech communication tools, that Quebec will not have a public school system second to none.

Chris Eustace