West Island schools have their say in Quebec City
Administrators of the school board that covers the West Island and off-island suburbs west of Montreal got their chance to speak Wednesday at the National Assembly.
Originally the Lester B. Pearson School Board was not permitted to discuss Bill 86 in Quebec City, but things have changed significantly since January.
At that time Francois Blais was the education minister and both the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the English Montreal School Board were excluded from hearings on Bill 86.
That list was then revised, and the education portfolio has changed hands twice. First it went to Pierre Moreau, but Sebastien Proulx has taken over as minister due to Moreau's health issues.
Lester B. Pearson chair Suanne Stein Day presented a brief on Wednesday, joined by commissioners Craig Berger and Frank Di Bello.
Stein Day said she's optimistic. Proulx has agreed to meet with the board and commissions to discuss the problems they have with Bill 86, problems Stein Day raised in the briefs she presented.
English school boards have argued a change to the structure of school boards would be detrimental to the anglophone community because they would be losing control of their own institutions.
“We are one of the most successful school boards in Quebec both fiscally and in terms of student success rates. We already appear to be what they are looking for in terms of a council of commissioners, but we do it through a very democratic process that allows the commissioners there to be very dedicated, want to be there and they are there,” said Stein Day.
They've also argued that they have an 85 per cent success rate overall in their schools, better than the overwhelming majority of francophone school boards, so a bill like this isn't necessary.
Under Bill 86 school boards throughout Quebec will be replaced with a non-elected council made up of parents, community members, school employees and principals.
The province has said it's necessary since most Quebecers don't participate in school board elections.
The voter turnout in the last school board elections was very low for francophone boards, about 5 per cent -- but was four times higher with English boards, reaching 22 percent at the EMSB.
The province has refused multiple suggestions made in recent years to take steps to improve election turnout, including pairing school board elections with municipal elections.