English Parents' Committee Association (EPCA), Montreal, Quebec
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Bill 12 – A brief presented to the Parliamentary Committee of Finance of the National Assembly – March 20th, 2019

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ACPA/EPCA
L'Association des comités de parents anglophones
English Parents’ Committee Association

Un mémoire présenté au Comité parlementaire des finances de l'Assemblée nationale sur:

Projet de loi n°12
“ Loi visant à préciser la portée du droit à la gratuité scolaire et à permettre l’encadrement de certaines contributions financières pouvant être exigées ”
Le 20 mars 2019

A brief presented to the Parliamentary Committee of Finance
of the National Assembly on:

Bill 12
“An Act to clarify the scope of the right to free education and to allow the regulation of certain financial contributions that may be required”

March 20th, 2019

 

7875 Côte-de-Liesse, Saint-Laurent, Québec, H4T 1G4
514-778-EPCA (3722) - e-mail: president@epcaquebec.org

A Parent Association for English Schools in Québec

 

A Voice for all Parents

The English Parents’ Committee Association is a coalition of parent committees from English-language school boards across Québec, representing nearly 100,000 students in the English language youth sector. EPCA is a non-profit association funded by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur (MEES).

EPCA advocates for English Public Education in Québec and lobbies on issues of concern of our Parents’ Committee members. Whenever there is an educational issue, we are the voice of the parents.

Bill 12

EPCA is pleased overall with the proposed Bill 12. We appreciate that the Ministry of Education and Higher Education applied our recommendations that the parents communicated to us in our “School Fees Survey” we conducted in December of 2017.

We were pleased to follow-up with the Ministry in December 2018 regarding the survey, as well as new recommendations from the parents regarding daycares, transportation and clarity on “free education”, to name a few.

The right to free education

The public consultation on school fees that was held from January 7th to 25th, 2019, on the website of the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, brought forth several main recommendations that the parents support.

A greater proportion was generally in favour of certain fees being charged for education.

“It was observed that these recommendations were detailed and often proposed compensatory measures for families with lower incomes. Several of these recommendations emphasized that these fees should not be an obstacle to getting an education”.

The English schools have put in place “different payment schedules” to help those parents in those situations. Unfortunately, several schools don’t recuperate all school fees every year. We would like to see the Ministry to recognize and help the families that are unable to pay their school fees by helping these families and/or the schools so they can avoid any “obstacles for getting an education”.

A significant proportion was generally in favour of free and accessible education.

Most of these recommendations stated that "education is an investment for society”.

We applaud that statement! Without our amazing teachers in Québec, our society wouldn’t be thriving in success. Our Anglophone teachers, school boards and community are the reason we have the highest success rates in Québec.

The definition of “special school projects” needs to be further defined to clarify which programs would qualify for charging fees (sport-études, course options, etc.) Parents, who decide to register their children in the special or enriched programs, should be able to receive a non refundable tax credit of up to 60% of cost of the program. This will help to provide a level playing field for non private school parents. We would encourage the Ministry to set up a “bursary program” for those parents that do not have the financial means to register their children in those special school projects.

Free textbooks and instructional materials and Governing Board

We agree with the recommendation from the survey that we need to “focus on reducing waste (return of unused materials at the end of the school year or using electronic resources instead of paper).

The parents would like the Ministry to allocate the necessary funds to supply schools and centers with tablets and laptops for students to do their work on. This will not only cut down on waste, but will start preparing them for the reality that electronic devices are being used in the workforce.

In order for the Governing Boards to conform to the Education Act, Section 6 “The school board shall see to it that its schools and vocational training centers comply with the conditions applicable to required financial contributions and that the schools and centres do not, under any circumstances, require payment of fees contrary to law, including administrative fees”. The parents need a more defined clarification on all of the “art supplies” mentioned (paint brush, clay, etc.).

Or main recommendation is to have a Universal Table/Appendix for Section 457.2.1 that list the services and school activities, specify objects and categories of instructional material and the financial contributions that will fall under the right of free access.

Vocational Centres

Our Vocational Centres will require the definition and interpretation of “teaching materials”. All hygiene materials required to complete their elective course should be covered in their fees. All safety material should be covered by the MEES.

Daycare Committee and Fees

We’re pleased to see the suggested “childcare parents’ committee” in section 256. We believe that parents should be involved in making recommendations regarding financial contributions required for daycare.

The cost to send your child to daycare on a “pedagogical day” has become more expensive every year. Several parents have multiple children in the daycare service, and it can become very expensive for them. In section 454.1, the MEES is able to regulate that cost for these parents.

School Activities

We're pleased that the MEES will be paying for two Educational field trips per year and one “Para-scolaire” trip for every school. Transportation is usually the most costly part of the outings. It’s extremely important all children are able to attend these activities.

The regulation must clarify the different activities that can and cannot be charged.

Transportation

The nine English School Boards live a different reality to the French School Boards regarding transportation. Our schools boundaries cover large territories, such as Western Québec is the sizes of Nova Scotia. Our transporters may have to drive thirty minutes just to pick-up one student.

Our students at risk aren’t always given special transportation when they start school at the secondary level. This is EXTREMELY dangerous for kids at a high risk level. Those students at risk are responsible to take the city bus or metro to get to school and back home. A very high percentage of students follow a routine. When that routine is disrupted, students begin to panic and make bad choices which put them in a precarious situation. The EPCA hopes that the MEES takes into account these realities when setting the regulations to ensure that the well being and safety of all our students, along with the amount of time they spend on the bus is given the consideration it deserves.

In the MEES survey, more than half of the recommendations (57.9%) concerning transportation tended to be in favour of this service being provided at no charge.

MEES Regulations

The MEES will establish a regulation that shall determine what shall be free and what can be charged, as well as standards for financial contributions.

The main fee that the parents would like to see be funded by the Ministry is the lunch hour supervision fee.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we agree with the three main findings stemming from the consultations:

There is a consensus in favour of maintaining free access to education, but with the understanding that certain fees could be charged for items or services beyond those normally provided in a school. It is generally accepted that there are limits to the principle of free items and services, and that some school fees should be assumed by parents under certain conditions.

The recommendations and opinions expressed demonstrate a clear desire to keep the projects and activities that have been developed in the schools, and are currently chosen locally, as long as there are guidelines for the fees that could be associated with them. These guidelines should not, however, limit the schools flexibility and should ensure that the fees are as low as possible.

Although field trips and school activities are recognized as being important, there is an insistence on the need for clarification with regard to the costs toward which parents might be asked to make a financial contribution.

We thank you for giving us the opportunity to submit our brief and participate in this consultation. Regulations regarding school supply list have always needed clarity for many Governing Boards. The new legislation will appease parent’s minds that only the required school material will be asked for. We look forward to further consultations regarding any government regulation on education matters. The parents are ready to contribute to the amendments/reflections from the consultation before the regulation becomes law.

We thank the Province of Québec legislator recognition of the significant contributions of Québec's official linguistic minority public school system, and the enactment of 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 Québec's future success.

Thank you!

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