A brief presented to the
Parliamentary Committee of Culture and Education
of the National Assembly on:
“Bill 105 An Act to amend the Education Act”
L'Association des comites de parents anglophones English Parent’s Committee Association
4150 Rue Sainte Catherine Ouest, 6ieme etage, Montreal, Quebec, H3Z 2Y5
Tel.: 514-778-EPCA (3722) - e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
The English Parent’s Committee Association (EPCA) is a provincial organization representing the Parents’ Committees and Central Parents’ Committees of Quebec’s English school boards. EPCA is a non-profit provincial corporation funded by the government of Quebec.
EPCA is recognized by the Ministere de I’Education et de I'Enseignement superieur (MEES); as the representative body of Quebec English parents’ committees’ interests and their voice of official linguistic minority matters when dealing with the Government. EPCA, via its member Parent Committees, assists and supports parents by providing education and, when necessary, advocacy. By the very nature of this parent association, its main concern is the well-being and education of the students who attend the English public schools of Quebec. With the exception of one part-time employee, EPCA’s Executive and Directors are all volunteer parents who seek to promote an enriched bilingual education for all Quebec children.
The membership is comprised of two directors per school board, elected by his or her respective Parent Committee to represent the parents and students of that school board. EPCA’s Board of Directors meets on a regular basis to discuss issues, derive common policies among the member Parent Committees, and to promote communication and the sharing of information.
EPCA member Parent Committees represent approximately 75,000 students attending English public schools at the following School Boards:
Table of Contents
Resource Allocation Committee 5
Increased Ministerial power 5
Mandatory Co-opted commissioner 6
Concrete measures to increase student success 6
Improved School Board Elections model and procedures 7
Equitable school taxation 8
EPCA acknowledges and appreciates the fact that the government has decided to allow Commissioners representing parents the right to vote thirty days after the legislation passes in the National Assembly. The time for this is long overdue for stakeholders, the parents to be directly involved in School Board governance overseeing the delivery of educational and pedagogical services to communities across Quebec.
The government's wishes to include the participation of school centers in the decision making towards schools has been present and the mainstay of the official minority language public school system in Quebec. Our parents, teachers, Governing Boards, Parent Committees, Schools and School Boards have, for the most part, always acted in a collegial cooperative fashion to advance the education of our children.
We question Bill 105's focus on school governance structure instead of items that will impact positively on student success across Quebec. We would like to see legislation that addresses real and concrete items that will benefit student success and would like to see a reversal of the successive reductions in financing to public schools.
We continue to insist that it is important to find ways to help teachers and administrators deliver pedagogy that engages students. We also think that the functioning and collaborative workings of Governing Boards could be improved with a greater focus on training.
We wish to instill in our elected representatives at the National Assembly a desire to respect the official linguistic speaking minority's collective rights. The English public education system, is distinct and a proven success that has been actively contributing to improve French instruction. This bilingual specificity should be encouraged and supported throughout Quebec. The benefits derived from this are incontestably positive for the whole of our society.
Items covered in the Bill 105
Resource Allocation Committee (RAC) Article #31
As mentioned before, the linguistic minority public school system operate in a decentralized manner and school administrators are consulted on budget allocation. This may take place in a formal or informal structure. The proposed RAC formalizes the process yet risks being disruptive to the existing ways of working. Even though the Council of Commissioners is the body which must ultimately decide on the composition of the committee and on the committee's recommendations, there is some validity to the argument that the role of the committee is blurred from one being of the advisory nature to one that is management and decisional in nature.
In order to reject the RAC recommendations, Council is required to do so with a 2/3 majority. This disposition begs the question as to the balance of proper governance and the necessity of legislation prescribing this 2/3 majority.
Parents question the additional impositions on school administrators’ time to be involved in this committee that will take time away from pedagogical matters in their own school centers. With the budget cutbacks experienced over recent years, the workload on school administrators has already grown considerably. It is legitimate to question whether school administrators have time to participate in RAC meetings. We hope some arrangements will be made to assist and compensate school administrators for the time spent on this added obligation.
The large size of English school boards, with their wide geographic territories, highlights possible problems in bringing in school administrators to meetings and could result in possible skewing the choice of members based on proximity.
Parents feel it would be appropriate and desirable to have a prescriptive measure of designating at least one membership position of this committee relegated to a commissioner representing parents
Increased Ministerial power
We understand that the desire for the increased powers provided to the Minister will allow a greater flexibility for dealing with problematic situations. Yet, we are wary that these new powers may be used to direct and propose directives that address concerns that might not be present in the linguistic minority school system in Quebec. There is concern that “one size fits all” solutions based on averages could have negative impacts on minority groups. It is particularly important that our ability to maintain the “management and control” of our public schools and our children's education.
Mandatory Co-opted Commissioner Article # 19
The specific nature and the large size of English school boards in Quebec, brings about questions on the practical application of co-opted commissioners. First, the representation of co-opted commissioners and their place of residence versus their professional involvement in representing a local, regional or provincial organization is not a linkage that is clearly evident. For a school board the geographical size of Nova Scotia, choosing one place of residence over another implies making choices that may not be equitable. This is compounded by the possibility that the area in which the organization is operating in could be outside of the School Board's territory.
In general, we feel that elements of article will be more difficult to apply effectively in School Boards whose geographic territory covers multiple municipalite regionale de comte (MRC) and cities.
Items not addressed in the Bill 105
Concrete measures to increase student success
We would like to reiterate that the current legislation, centered on structural changes, has missed the mark on helping improve student success. We continue to advocate for our suggestions on improving student success that were found in our Bill 86 brief: 1. Commitment to teacher professional development, 2. Added support mechanisms for school administrators and, 3. Improved Governing Board training. (http://goo.gl/UeLVj8_links to National Assembly web site)
Budget cuts to education over the years have been particularly hurtful to the official linguistic minority public education system and are compounded by Quebec's restrictive language law limiting enrollment into English public schools. This has negatively affected the availability of resources needed to deliver quality pedagogy to all our students. This has also put additional pressures on our inclusive, government recommended integration model for children with special needs.
We urge the government to move forward on the delivery of quality programs and services that will elevate teaching practices to help raise overall student success. We also note that the desire of focusing on results and system efficiency must be balanced with the ability to harness individual strengths and aspirations of each student.
Need for investment in education
Allow for greater flexibility of School Boards to manage their own finances and reduce the amount of reporting required. Fiscally responsible School Boards with good success rates should have the leeway to spend their funds as they best see fit.
Incorporate Financial Literacy in the curriculum for all students starting in Cycle 2 grade 4 (currently being done in Ontario)
Incorporate study skills and time management skills for all students starting at the elementary level as these tools will help maximize learning and could improve marks and graduation rates.
Introduce basic software coding concepts to students starting in cycle 2. (N.B. British Columbia has mandated coding courses and computational thinking in K-12 classrooms.)
Review equity in funding
Review distribution procedures on how smaller funding envelopes, such as NANS, are handled by regional offices. English Regional High Schools normally cover a larger catchment area than their French counterpart. This makes it more difficult to sit on a larger number of administrative district tables at the various MRC's. This review would not necessarily mean more money spent just a fairer distribution.
School Boards with large territories should be funded to create or expand distance learning technological education resources.
Improved School Board Elections model and procedures.
During the Bill 86 public hearings, many interventions proposed suggestions for improving School Board democracy. In Bill 105, there are no elements in the proposed legislation that reinforces School Board elections particularly, how to increase voter participation and improve election management procedures.
One comment that resonated throughout the Bill 86 hearings is that the majority of School Board commissioners have passed through the ranks of Parent Committees. With the work, family and life balance pressure, the filling of the Parent Committee positions is becoming increasingly more difficult. The current system for electing school Board chairs through universal suffrage also tends to reduce active participation in School Board affairs and this needs to be reevaluated.
We would like to see the choice of Chair of the Council of Commissioners be made by Council Commissioners by a simple majority vote and possible removal by a vote of no less than 2/3 of the members. This would allow the possibility of Council members choose Chair and Vice Chair without discriminating amongst the commissioners who represent parents, as they would be able to pose their candidacy towards the top leadership position. This approach would also allow the participation of
English Parent’s Committee Association (EPCA)
maximum number of commissioners without resolving to the “zero sum game” of one winner and a loser who could not consequently contribute to the Council, if he or she lost an election for Chair, as currently exists in the universal suffrage election model.
The election of a Chair through universal suffrage is particularly problematic for some English School Boards that cover vast territories and make campaigning excessively expensive and difficult.
The current management of the elections by the DGE, who supplies the electoral lists to candidates clearly favours political parties that have the organizations to manipulate the electoral list data. Individual candidates for School board election normally do not have such partisan organizational resources.
Equitable regional school taxation
If we continue to use real estate values as a method of calculating and partially financing education, we need to ensure that taxation rates be equitable across all linguistic school boards within geographic regions.
We thank you for giving us the opportunity to submit our brief and participate in this consultation. Bill 105 finally brings forth the provision of the right to vote by commissioners who represent parents. We appreciate this new right for parents at the top levels of School Board governance. This will undoubtedly bring forward a new dimension of proximity and immediacy to serving the interests of the local school populations and community.
We do question Bill 105’s focus on governance structures. We would like to see the Government put forward concrete plans that deal with student success, teacher support and the necessary funding allocations for resources to programs and services.
Parents in the English sector have been “rolling up their sleeves” and volunteering in schools for years. We seek pragmatic solutions and are open and willing to work on initiatives that will improve our public education in Quebec.
We also ask that the National Assembly legislators recognize the significant contributions of Quebec's official linguistic minority public school system is making and enacting legislation to ensure its stability and continuity. We ask that the collective rights of the official linguistic minority be protected. Our specificity and historic distinctiveness is intricately woven into our society. Our children are indispensable to Quebec's future success.