Saskatchewan introduced legislation in December 2014 that led to the establishment of the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board, a body that, unlike its BC counterpart, is governed by a board that has a clear majority of teachers – seven teachers, three of whom can be elected or appointed by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Association – and two public appointees. The concept of a self-regulatory body was discussed in Quebec political circles when Ontario’s College was established. It was floated as an election platform issue by the Coalition Avenir Québec in 2012, but hasn’t gained traction since then.
School Boards Face Change and Loss of Authority
Education governance is an issue that surfaces sporadically across the country and is trending towards a reduction in the role and authority of school boards. In Ontario, school boards have lost authority through the loss of local taxation powers and a funding model based solely on provincial grants, legislation that has narrowed the role of school trustees, and a provincial bargaining model that reduces the scope of local bargaining.
Other provinces have introduced more extensive changes to school boards. In 2013, Newfoundland combined its four English language school boards to create one single board. In November 2015, Prince Edward Island announced it was eliminating its English-language school board and replacing it with the new Learning Partners Advisory Council whose members are drawn from the community and education organizations including the Prince Edward Island Teachers’ Association. Both Newfoundland’s and PEI’s French-language boards remain in effect. In December 2015, Quebec introduced legislation that proposes to eliminate province wide school board elections. In defending its policy, the government pointed to the five percent voter turnout in the 2014 local elections and argued that cancelling future elections would save $15 million every four years as well as the $10 million annually that went to trustee salaries. School boards will be replaced by a council consisting of parents, school staff and community members. It will be interesting to see if these changes to local governance affect school boards in other provinces, including Ontario.
A look at education policy and education politics across Canada highlights the importance of education sector unions being engaged in the political process and standing up against governments seeking to balance their budgets at the expense of education workers and the quality of public education. Given the gender profile of ETFO, it also underlines the importance of targeting political action training for our women members and increasing the pool of female ETFO activists.