Drainville on defence: shifts responsibility for extra fees to school service centres
QUEBEC CITY -- It's time to change the "culture" of school service centres to make them more accountable, says Bernard Drainville, who plans to introduce a new bill on school governance.
The Minister of Education faced a barrage of questions from opposition MNAs on Tuesday as they studied his department’s budget.
He was challenged by his Liberal counterpart, Marwah Rizqy, on the issue of fees charged to parents, and urged the directors general of school service centres to "speak up.”
Rizqy gave the example of a parent who was outraged at having to pay more than $1,000 a year for her child to have access to public school transportation and lunch services, among other things.
This is a "crushing blow" and a "shock" for families already struggling with inflation, she said.
Minister Drainville said parents who are unhappy with the fees should go to their school service centre and ask for a review of the fee schedule.
“You have to put the blame on the right decision maker," he said.
“It is as if, as soon as there is a problem somewhere in a school ... in Quebec, it should always be the minister who ultimately has to answer for everything, at all times, on everything that happens,” he said.
“We will have to change the culture around the operation of school service centres. Service centres are going to have to be more and more accountable for their decisions," he said.
"The law says the directors general of the service centres are the official spokespersons of the body, so it's up to them to speak up and explain their decisions," he added.
PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé recalled that the school service centres were a “creation of the CAQ.”
In February 2020, the Legault government adopted Bill 40 under a gag order, replacing school boards with service centres.
Since then, he has been “very critical of his own creation,” Bérubé said. “What did we win?" he asked.
BILL OF RIGHTS
The role of service centres came to the forefront in another issue: students with special needs. Rizqy questioned wait times for access to specialized resources.
This information, which is not available, is "in the public interest," Drainville acknowledged. Currently, the data is in the hands of school service centres.
“I would like to be able to access the data much more quickly and efficiently ... I invite the member for Saint-Laurent to remain very attentive. We will have things to say on this subject soon,” he said.
The minister confirmed on Tuesday that his government will table a second bill on school governance in three years. An “admission of failure,” said Rizqy.
On the other hand, Drainville said he was “open to thinking” about the possibility of drafting a national directive on the use of cellphones in schools.
Bérubé pointed out that virtually every student today has a smartphone, and that it is often a distraction.
“There is no national policy on this issue," said the Matane-Matapédia MNA. “Would the minister be willing to think about this issue so that there are at least national guidelines?”
According to Drainville, there are codes of conduct under the authority of school councils that stipulate students must leave their smartphones outside the classroom.
“There are schools that have already regulated the use of smartphones inside the classroom," he said. “Would I be open to having a directive that applies to all schools? I'm open to considering it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 2, 2023.