Education bill may undermine role of school trustees and special education



    BURNABY, BC, March 28 /CNW/ - Wide-ranging legislative changes to B.C.'s
public education system may undermine elected school boards and take the
province backwards in the area of special education according to the Canadian
Union of Public Employees.
    Amendments tabled in Bill 20, THE SCHOOL (STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT ENABLING)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2007 in the B.C. Legislature on March 26 affect a number of
areas, including: school fees, the power of superintendents, the role of
school boards, and the creation of 'model' schools.
    CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill says that in its initial review of the
proposed legislation, CUPE is particularly concerned about the implications
for the role of school boards and elected trustees, and the impact on special
education.
    "Bill 20 creates new provincial Superintendents of Achievement with
powers to override board decisions and makes district superintendents
responsible to the new provincial superintendents in achievement-related
areas. This undermines board powers and the important role of elected school
trustees and centralizes control over K-12 education. The result would be a
public education system that is less accountable and therefore less
effective," says O'Neill.
    O'Neill is concerned about proposed model or 'demonstration' schools. "We
believe that inclusive options for special education need to be developed
within the existing system. CUPE represents thousands of Special Education
Assistants whose role is critical, but the funds simply are not there now to
pay for the hours required to do their work."
    "All students benefit when they have close daily interactions in regular
educational settings. Students with disabilities need fully funded supports,
not segregation in specialized institutions," says O'Neill.
    CUPE is also critical of the reinstatement of school fees in some areas,
which Bill 20 allows. "School fees divide students and their families into
haves and have-nots," says O'Neill. "At a minimum this legislation should
require boards to include all students in programs regardless of whether they
pay the fee."
    CUPE supports Bill 20's expansion of school district mandates in the
areas of literacy and early learning, but cautions that the necessary
resources must follow the expanded mandates. For more detailed preliminary
analysis please see CUPE's backgrounder.





For further information:

For further information: Barry O'Neill, CUPE BC president, (604)
340-6768; Roseanne Moran, CUPE communications representative, (778) 835-7537

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Canadian Union of Public Employees

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - BC Regional

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