Quebec education overhaul will apply to English school boards
Quebec Education Minister Bernard Drainville says his overhaul of the education system tabled on Thursday will apply to English school boards as well as to the French service centres.
"We are convinced our bill respects the rights of the English-speaking community of Quebec," he said.
Bill 23 makes significant changes to school governance and gives the minister greater powers. For example, they would be charged with appointing or dismissing the directors general of school service centres.
Education ministers could also override the appointees' decisions if they don't fall in line with the minister's objectives.
Three years ago, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) shook up the education system when it passed Bill 40, abolishing school boards and replacing them with service centres.
English school boards still exist after Bill 40 was challenged in court on constitutional grounds. Those fighting it argued that the legislation infringes on the rights of the English-speaking community to manage its own school system.
The case is still under deliberation. This latest change has elicited outrage among some who work in the education sector on behalf of the English community.
"We warned the government about this on the 17th of March. We implored them not to do it, we gave them reasons why it should not be done. We never got a response to that, and instead, they've come with this hammer which further dilutes local decision-making. It's outrageous," Russell Copeman, the head of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) told CTV News.
The Quebec Liberal Party's education critic, Marwah Rizqy, expressed concern about the political pressure that school authorities may experience if the minister has the final say on matters usually within their domain.
"Do you really think we're going to have DGs who speak up, or are they going to be silenced? I think most of them are going to be silenced because no one wants to be fired," she said.
The bill also introduces plans for a national institute of excellence in education.
"A place where the science of education, the best practices, the best means of teaching will be recognized," Drainville said during a news conference.
This independent body would become the benchmark for evidence-based best practices.
This particular development raises concerns for a teachers union, particularly about how the institute will operate and whether the research and training will truly be kept separate from politics.
"We want our teachers to have autonomy, we want them to choose the professional development that they think suits them," said Heidi Yetman, the head of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.
"So when we hear about an institute of excellence in education where they're going to look at the best way to do pedagogy in the province, that's really concerning for us," she said.
QESBA said it plans to try to convince the government to leave English school boards out of Bill 23 and isn't ruling out further legal action.
With files from The Canadian Press