Education minister doubles down on plans to abolish school boards
Quebec’s education minister doubled down Tuesday on the CAQ’s plan to abolish school boards.
“We want to transform schoolboards into service centres,” said Jean-Francois Roberge, who assured the English-speaking community its rights will still be respected under the new system.
English-language advocacy groups, however, are not convinced of that and have plans to fight back.
“We thought the door had opened a little bit on Friday - and was shut fairly quickly,” said Quebec English School Boards Association Executive Director Russell Copeman.
The government’s approach -- from what the QQESBA knows so far -- is unacceptable, said Copeman.
“The premier's office said the service centre's upper management would be named by the premier. In their document of last year, the CAQ said they would be integrated into the department of education,” said Copeman. “Both those things are of grave concerns to us because if the management is named by the minister, then the manager reports to the minister.”
If they’re integrated into the department of education, Copeman argues that the service centres will become de facto government offices.
“That is not what we understand to be controlling management of our education system by our community,” he said.
The Quebec Community Groups Network said it’s open to reforms in the education system, but said the English-speaking community has a right to manage its education system, and will not abandon English school boards.
“If they are going to have a dialogue about school boards, we're going to accept for the time being while they have a starting point which is not our starting point, that they are going in with an open mind,” said Geoffrey Chambers, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network.
Minister Roberge said he would listen with an open mind -- but also said he would abolish the school boards anyway.
“We are open mind to improve our program, but even after hearing those concerns, still we will transform schoolboards into service centres for school and abolish election of school boards,” he said.
Legal action is not off the table, said Chambers.
“If the government decided to do something, which in our view is unconstitutional, we will be forced to have the courts adjudicate that,” he said.
Roberge said he isn’t concerned about that.
“Of course we will write the law in a way that it will respect the constitution, so if they go for a battle on the court, of course they will lose,” he said.