MONTREAL, Dec. 21, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - QESBA President David D'Aoust and Josée Bouchard, president of the Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec (FCSQ) reported that their intensive closed-door session with Education Minister Marie Malavoy yesterday on the government budget plan to reduce equalization payments to school board was "…an important step in the right direction". Both QESBA and the FCSQ have publicly expressed their strong opposition to the imposition of this major compression measure, which will have the effect of removing some $200 million dollars from government funding to public education in the coming school year.
The exchange, convened by the Minister, was with the mutual objective of reopening a dialogue on this important budget cutback. "The Minister indicated her wish to work with our Associations on this difficult problem, and we fully intend to do so," noted D'Aoust. Both Associations had called for the convening of the "Table Québec-commissions scolaires". Under successive governments, this consultative body has been convened from time to time. It brings together the two school board associations with the Minister and key Ministry personnel to discuss important issues.
The Minister reminded the two presidents of the fiscal burden faced by all Quebecers at the present time, stated that the measure indeed calls on school boards to make sacrifices but underlined that it will not be reversed. She also reminded Boards that the Ministry itself has absorbed some $112 million of internal cuts, none of which will be imposed on school boards. The President and his counterpart from the FCSQ enumerated the very serious challenges to student service delivery that the measure will entail. They also reviewed the political and administrative challenges that will come from the imposition of the equalization payment reductions - which will vary from Board to Board and even within the territory of each Board affected. The Minister repeated that the measure was designed to eliminate certain tax inequities, whereby certain property tax payers were getting compensation for tax hikes that were no longer in place. David D'Aoust also reminded the Minister that many English school boards are losing large numbers of taxpayers who are jumping to neighboring French school boards with lower tax rates. This deprives the original English Board of electors from its voters' list, school election funding and tax revenues.
While the Associations and the government do not agree on the merits or the impact of the measure, all parties were satisfied with the direct and respectful exchange. The Minister expressed openness to the possibility of creating a working table with a view to future consultations with school board leadership on important financing issues, including the broad possibility of an eventual fiscal pact on public school financing. She promised to be back in touch with the two presidents on this matter early in the New Year.
SOURCE: Quebec English School Boards Association
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