Public’s rights scrubbed from Education Act

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January 16, 2018 by realrenewal

Public input has been gutted from the Education Act.

As the season for annual school electors’ meetings comes around, changes to the Education Act are hitting home. The public’s rights have been gutted, while Education Minister Bronwyn Eryre has assumed sweeping new powers.

Gone is the Annual Electors’ Meeting guaranteed under the Education Act. Provisions for electors meetings have been moved to the School Division Administration Act, and are solely on the onus of electors to request by petition.

Previously school divisions were required to host the annual meeting, and electors — meaning taxpaying residents — were able to question trustees on any subject related to education, as well as propose and vote on resolutions.

Erye has since said school boards can hold annual electors’ meetings as an option, though they have no place in legislation. Some boards, such as Regina Catholic Schools, have chosen to do so. Others, like Regina Public, have chosen to scrap the meetings in favour of more controlled small group discussions on pre-selected questions.

In recent years, electors’ meetings had been lively forums for debate on controversial issues, ranging from cuts to lunch programs to reduced EA staffing. Electors attending a Regina Public meeting successfully passed a motion demanding greater transparency on P3 schools, for example, while Catholic electors voted to end military training in high schools. In 2016, a group of high school students presented a resolution to retain the International Baccalaureate Program, a valuable civics lesson that will be denied to future students.

Meanwhile, as of May 2017, the education minister has new powers to “do any things that the minister deems advisable” and to “give a written directive to a board of education or the conseil scolaire to take any action that the minister considers necessary.”

Previously, the minister’s primary responsibility was to “prepare and distribute recommendations and advice” to local education authorities, with power mainly invested in the ability to appoint advisors and boards of elected trustees.

At a time when democracy is imperiled around the world, the erasure of the public’s voice in education decisions is not something to blindly accept. Anyone wishing to join in actions to challenge this turn of events is urged to contact realrenewal@gmail.com

 

What’s changed

Electors’ Meetings

  • A requirement that school boards present their annual report, audited financial statement and a progress review to an annual meeting of electors. REPEALED.
  • The right of electors to choose the annual meeting chair and “entertain any discussion of the order of business, including resolutions, exchange of information and views on educational plans and policies, and questions concerning the reports.” REPEALED.
  • The right of electors to call a Special Meeting. MOVED from from the Act and DOWNGRADED to School Division Administration Regulations.

 

School Closures

  • All the provisions for public input into closure decisions have been REPEALED from the Education Act.
  • Guaranteed rights like public notice, public meetings, and limits on transportation distances were DOWNGRADED to regulations, easily changed or discarded by minister’s order.

 

Local governance

  • Elected school boards have been MOVED out of the Act and DOWNGRADED into Regulations, and the duties of board chairs and directors have been REPEALED from the Act.
  • NEW: Boards are now subject to direct ministerial control on all educational and operational matters, by written directive if necessary.
  • NEW: If push comes to shove, the minister can now appoint a single trustee to take over full administration of a school division, overturning the whole process of having an elected school board.

 

Related story: RealRenewal urges Minister to retain SCC and electors’ rights. April 26, 2017.

 

 

 

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