"Education, a priority;" - oh, really?! - QESBA challenges party leaders to spell out plans for public schooling in Québec
Remarks delivered by David D'Aoust, President of the Quebec English School Boards Association to a news conference held at the QESBA offices in Montreal on August 22nd, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
MONTREAL, Aug. 23, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and thank you for joining us today. Quebecers face an important choice on September 4th, and as the President of the Association representing English school boards in this province, I am here to suggest to you that, insofar as the issue of public education is concerned, they are not getting the clear answers they deserve to properly prepare to make that choice. Public education is a sacred trust. Whoever becomes Premier after Election Day will have to honor that sacred trust. It is of the utmost of importance to our parents and guardians as well as our adult students. How will they honor that sacred trust? We believe Quebecers want to know.
That is why the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) is calling on each of the major party leaders and their teams of candidates to answer some key questions on public schooling. We first issued that challenge on July 20th - before the election writs were formally deposited. QESBA is unhappy and concerned to report that those questions remained unanswered - despite the four debates this week, and the completion of more than half of the elected campaign.
So, today, QESBA reiterates those three questions, and we add to them a particular demand of each of the three major party leaders - based on our understanding of their current positions - notwithstanding their unfortunately limited focus on public education during the campaign to date.
Now in doing so, QESBA will not ever presume to advise any member of our English public education community on how to vote; we are, however, determined to exercise our duty today to seek, on the public record, some answers to questions that really matter - to our students and their educational future, from the individuals who seek to uphold this sacred trust of public education, as Premier of Quebec.
Our three questions:
1. Quebec's public schools, elementary, high schools, adult and vocational centres are controlled and managed by school boards - the level of government, elected by the public, that is closest to the communities they serve. At present, no date or format has been confirmed for school board elections. We asked, on July 20th, and we repeat today:
|a)||If you and your party are elected to form the next government, what guarantees can you provide to ensure that the system of universally elected school boards will be maintained and strengthened?|
|b)||When will you confirm a date for the next school board elections and what format will they take?|
Specifically, Monsieur Legault, as Leader of the Coalition avenir Québec, you propose to abolish elected school boards and replace them with some sort of unelected regional councils. In fact, this plan has been a central component of your platform since the Coalition avenir Québec was founded. How will those non-elected councils ensure equal educational opportunity for all students? How will they be funded and who will staff them. Mme Marois: we've heard hardly a word from you on how a Parti québécois government would support current public education structures. Your platform calls for greater decentralization of powers to individual schools. How will that better contribute to combatting the high-school drop-out rate? How will it improve public education? Monsieur Charest, your government has indicated that it will support elected school boards, yet has failed to set a date for school board elections, suspended by a law your government adopted close to two years ago. If your government supports publicly elected school boards, will you promptly declare a date for the next school board elections and reply to school boards who have requested a derogation to the number of elected commissioners as per Bill 88?
2. There is no doubt that Québec is faced with a difficult economic horizon over the next few years in its struggle to reduce the deficit. Inevitably, any future government will face tough choices with respect to the financing of public services. Each of the leaders has indicated that education is an investment in Québec's future and not simply an expense. That said, school boards have seen their budgets drastically reduced over the past 10 years or more as well as their level of autonomy to best deliver quality services to their students.
|a)||If you and your party are elected to form the next government, will you ensure the required levels of funding of public education in Québec, always understanding that education is the motor of the economy?|
|b)||How will you guarantee school boards the autonomy they need to make decisions and deliver the full range of programs that respond to the local needs of their students and the communities?|
On this matter, M. Charest, your government, in its last budget, removed some $150 million from public education funding, arguing incorrectly, that this shortfall would not affect students in the classroom. How can you say education is the top priority and then defend these cuts? M. Legault and Mme Marois: What are your clear and specific plans for public education funding, and how will you ensure that Quebec's public schools are supported by the resources they need to maintain quality services to all students?
3. English public schooling in Québec is an absolute life-line to the future of our communities across the province. Our students benefit from progressive and innovative education programs, inclusive approaches to learning and after-school activities and superior French second-language instruction at every level across the province. Decreasing enrollment across our system continues to be a concern, however, as access to English public schooling is basically limited to the students of parents who studied in English in Canada under the rules of the Charter of the French Language. Within those rules, which QESBA is not contesting in this campaign, eligible parents continue to face confusing and complicated bureaucratic delays as they seek access to English public schooling.
|a)||If you and your party are elected to form the next government, will you adopt a clear and supportive position on the importance and value of Québec's English public education system to the future of our province?|
|b)||Will you take the necessary steps to improve the efficiency and transparency of bureaucratic procedures imposed on parents seeking to obtain eligibility to English public schooling for their children, as is their right, by law?|
Mme Marois, if you have been clear on one area of your platform in this campaign, it is on language matters. You have confirmed that your party, if elected, will move promptly to extend Bill 101 to restrict access to English Cegeps as well as the adult education centres operated by our nine-member school boards. The Fédération des cégeps and a grassroots movement of francophone Quebec students have already come out against the Cegep plan, and it is not QESBA's intention to comment further on that aspect. Our member school boards are directly touched, however, by your stated intention to apply Bill 101 to our Adult Centres. Please explain how and why adult students, of majority age in the eyes of the law, choosing to pursue their studies in English - most often as well as French - are threatening the future of the French language in doing so. Please explain to us as well whether an eventual government led by you will respect and support the future stability of our English public school board network, and if so, how?
M. Legault, you have commented only sparingly on this matter, while committing your party to spending more on bureaucratic surveillance and oversight of Bill 101. Could you explain why? Can you tell us if you view the English public school system as an asset to the future of Québec. Monsieur Charest, you have also indicated that your government opposes the notion of extending Bill 101's application to adults. That said, you haven't publicly defended the role and value of English public education in any election intervention to-date. Why not?
Ladies and gentlemen, we urge every Quebecer to exercise his or her right to cast a vote on September 4th, and we call upon Jean Charest, Pauline Marois and François Legault and other party Leaders to exercise the courage and the leadership to help them make a responsible and informed choice on that day. You can understand that QESBA, in its role as the voice of English public education in Québec, will be assessing and reporting on how each of you respond to our questions as the campaign continues. Thank you."
SOURCE: QUEBEC ENGLISH SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATIONFor further information:
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