Recent published revelations, by journalist Bernard Drainville, of leaks from anonymous government sources pointing to the retention of English school boards by the Legault administration, even if it’s just the preservation of the elected dimension of these boards, have done little to dispel people’s concerns over the nagging problem of dysfunctional school boards, such as English Montreal (EMSB). Public debate, in recent months, has been dominated by a widely held and articulately expressed view that if the English school boards are indeed to be retained, they will require major internal reforms and modifications of practices, specified in law, as to how they will function.
In a telephone interview with The Laval News (TLN), Christopher Skeete – Sainte-Rose (Laval) MNA and Parliamentary Assistant to Premier Legault for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, expressed alarm and disappointment over the unsubstantiated leaks from the anonymous sources revealing that the government intends to retain the elected dimension of Quebec’s nine English school boards. Mr. Skeete reaffirmed that the Projet de loi, which is soon to be deposited in the National Assembly, will have provisions for general internal reforms for all of Quebec’s 72 school boards, implying that the plan is to abolish elections for the 60 French boards, and three multi-language boards. He said he could not specify what the internal reforms would entail, but he did confirm that some form of the Service Center model would definitely come into play for all school boards, French, English or other.
“The Council of Ministers is being duly consulted. We have a pretty good idea of where we’re going,” said Mr. Skeete, adding that the Bill is presently being tabled, and thus he could not comment on what it will eventually look like in its final form, although he did say that no (official) definitive public statement has been made as to where the government is going with its intention to enact school board reform.
Affirmation of the rights of the English community
Mr. Skeete spoke optimistically about the work-in-progress for school board reforms currently being conducted by Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, but expressed serious concerns over the negative fall-out from the recent anonymous revelations.
“The conclusions drawn are very distressing and there’s lots of speculation. People think they’re getting shafted. Our intention is to respect the English community. There’s discussion with various English community groups concerning the make-up of the (proposed) service centers and their operation,” Mr. Skeete specified, summing up, in a nutshell, that “universal suffrage (elections) is of great importance to the community, we’ll guarantee the best results for our kids.”
Asked about the current crisis at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), Mr. Skeete pointed out that Education Minister Roberge’s investigation was a long time coming, but is totally unrelated to the Projet de loi aimed at school board reform in general.
School Board reform, whatever form it takes, is essential to the proper governance of 2,670 public schools – 1,895 primary, 576 general or professional secondary, 199 combined primary/secondary. Billions of dollars are pumped into these schools, not to mention the sizable number of semi-private schools also generously funded, in part, by the public purse.