Letter to the editor 2, April 7, 2016

Dear Editor,

The week of April 4, 2016, marks the end of the hearings by the Committee on Culture and Education, at the National Assembly, studying the school board reform Bill 86.

Given the bill accentuates the role of parents in a restructured, modernized public school system, it is understandable the last major groups to be heard are the parent groups : English Parents' Committee Association (EPCA), and the Fédération des comités de parents du Québec (FCPQ).

That said, no one can deny the majority Liberal government, which was voted in by over 1.7 million Quebecers, with a mandate to democratize our anachronistic public school system, has been extremely fair to the Anglophone community.

However, various English-speaking groups and school boards, led by the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) have heaped a lot of scorn on the bill, at the hearings, in the media, and via press releases.

They claim the bill, "…tramples on minority rights," and if it passes, "students will suffer." They concluded, "the bill belongs in the garbage" (CJAD, CTV) and, "...à la poubelle disent des anglophones " (Le Devoir, Jan 16, 2016).

Contrary to what QESBA claims, it does not speak for the entire community.

In fact, in the last school board elections, 83 per cent of the Anglophone community could not be bothered to vote, and 48 per cent of the seats were acclaimed.

The president, vice-president and the executive-director of the QESBA are not educators; they are professional school board politicians.

Consequently, they cannot appreciate the benefits of Bill 86, especially when the bill calls for no more school board elections and, by extension, no commissioners. Once the bill is passed, commissioners have 15 days to clear out.

No wonder there has been so much bashing of the bill by QESBA with its unlimited financial resources, including a lobby group to stop the bill from passing.

Nonetheless, QESBA and the other English-speaking organizations have been given a disproportionate amount of time to put forth their views at the hearings.

However, the committee has not yet heard one English voice that agrees with all the general principles of the bill.

Allow me.

Bill 86 is forward-looking, parent-friendly with pedagogically-sound initiatives, which, when passed, should make for happier parents truly managing and controlling their schools.

This will be accomplished by these provisions in the draft bill:

(1) the elimination of school board executive committees - the home of board secrecy and menace to real democracy,

(2) the creation of the 'Resource Allocation Committee,' which looks at services, especially for 'special-needs' students, and

(3) the heavy involvement of parents in decision-making at all levels. Indeed, there is no greater democracy than the direct democracy the bill affords.

Premier Philippe Couillard has said," We want to shift the centre of gravity of the system toward the school, the teachers, and the parents.”

No rights will be trampled; no one will suffer; we will survive and thrive with Bill 86.

Chris Eustace

Pierrefonds

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