Bill 88 suspended, to be reintroduced in fall - QESBA will seek changes to draft law: "Community involvement and real accountability must be goals, not new powers for Minister"



    QUEBEC CITY, June 20 /CNW Telbec/ - The Quebec English School Boards
Association (QESBA) will renew its efforts to see Bill 88 amended to better
serve the needs of Quebec's English school boards and the students they serve,
now that debate on the law has been suspended to the fall. Bill 88 proposes
wide-ranging changes to how school boards are elected, how they operate and
how they account to the public they serve. QESBA has been deeply involved in
consultations on the subject over the past 18 months.
    "From the beginning, our association has been advocating measures that
will build on the solid record of our English school boards in working with
our parents, providing transparency in our decision-making and responding
effectively to local needs," noted QESBA President Debbie Horrocks. "We have
understood the Minister (Michele Courchesne, Minister of Education, Recreation
and Sports) to share that focus. Unfortunately, the draft law as it stands now
clearly seems headed in a different direction."
    QESBA points to three key areas of concern for its nine member English
boards:
    Bill 88 would require that candidates for school board Chair be elected
by universal suffrage. "For English school boards, particularly in outlying
regions, this will not enhance democracy," Horrocks said. "It would be
impossible for candidates for Chair in some regions to undertake real
discussions on the issues when they have to cross up to 250 municipalities -
to reach their electors. The Minister told the Education Commission during the
article-by-article study of the law that special measures to address this
problem will come in the fall. We will be watching very closely."
    A second concern: The Minister continues to express her intention to twin
school board elections with municipal ones. This scenario represents a
nightmare in logistics and organization for English school boards. It would
likely result in tremendous confusion and ultimately, a less effective
democratic process for the election of school commissioners. With the
potential for four different elections and electoral lists (English and French
at both school board and municipal levels) and English boards covering
multiple municipalities and administrative regions, simply drawing up the
ballots and distributing accurate information could prove to be impossible
tasks for the English sector. Again this will not enhance democracy for
English school boards.
    "QESBA has always welcomed enhanced accountability and transparency in
school board operations," Horrocks continued. "Right now, Bill 88 looks like
it will simply expand the powers and bureaucracy of the Education Ministry and
actually hamper the ability of school boards to deliver quality services,
consult parents and properly address complaints." Horrocks pointed to a plan
to hire additional Ministère de l'Education, du Loisir et du Sport personnel
to oversee school-school board strategic agreements as well as new Ministerial
powers to order school boards to release certain information as two examples
of excessive and unnecessary changes.
    "QESBA continues to welcome the Minister's over-all effort to strengthen
public education in Quebec. She deserves much credit for refocusing attention
on the key work of school boards," Horrocks concluded. "That said, there is
much room for improvement in Bill 88. We expect the full chance to participate
in securing those improvements before the law is voted upon next fall."
    A QESBA committee with representatives from each member board will
continue meeting over the summer to work on suggested changes to Bill 88.
QESBA is the voice of English public education in Quebec. Its nine member
boards serve some 110,000 students in 340 schools across the province.




For further information:

For further information: David Birnbaum, Executive Director, (514)
849-5900, ext. 228, (C) (514) 232-6295


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