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Archive for the ‘Boards of Education’ Category

Could Alberta Report Inspire BC Liberals To Scrap Elected School Boards?

June 8, 2010 Comments off

There has been plenty of speculation lately that the BC Liberals want to make changes to the governance of education in BC, speculation based on vague platitudes from the throne speech and the report of the comptroller general in regards to the Vancouver board’s fiscal situation, which came down hard on the elected officials for not acting like an executive broad of a crown corporation.

The question is: how would the BC Liberals change education governance? One approach can come from the School Centred Leadership/Shared Business Systems document that the Ministry of Education produced in 2006, in which the government would amalgamate most infrastructure and staff to larger bodies than the current Boards of Education, while covering up this amalgamation by giving more ‘autonomy’ to schools (read: giving money to schools on a per-pupil basis, while forming school-based “School Planning Councils”).

But a recent report released by the Alberta Government, Inspiring Education, provides a different approach.

Inspiring Education suggests that Alberta School Boards transfer their governance from elected boards to Governance Teams, which would be composed of representatives from a number of local stakeholder groups: parents, educators, municipalities, cultural groups, First Nations, business, non-profits, and so on. Most of these representatives would be appointed.

The theory behind this Governance Team structure is that it would make school boards more responsive to student and local demands. Two examples the report suggests on how this would happen: 1) a board with a growing number of immigrants could appoint more immigrants to a Governance Team in order to get relevant input; 2) a board with a large student demand for vocational training in tourism could appoint a person who owns a tourism business to work on ways to provide the training.

However, I don’t think that this is what would happen in practice. I believe that appointing people to Boards of Education would result in: 1) mostly those with connections to the government being appointed; and 2) a system in which Boards of Education would only be accountable to those who appointed them, not local citizens. That is, after all, what happened when the BC Liberals scrapped elected health boards for appointed ones. Furthermore, I would suggest that Boards of Education could be made responsive to student and local demands using committees rather than replacing the entire elected board with a Governance Team.

But if the BC Liberals did actually want to get rid of elected Boards of Education and replace them with appointees, the Albertan Inspiring Education report could certainly be an inspiration for both a structure and spin in which to do so.

[Not] Protecting Education: The Cutbacks of School District #57

January 20, 2010 2 comments

During the 2009 British Columbia Election campaign, the BC Liberals repeatedly said that despite the hard economic times, they would protect education while in Government.

After getting out of yesterday’s School District #57 (Prince George) special meeting, there is only one thing I can say:

The BC Liberals lied.

At the special meeting, School District #57 administrators presented a “District Sustainably Committee” report, which recommended that the district:

  1. Close down 12 of 47 schools and re-purpose 2 schools to teach different groups of students. To top it off, some of these schools slated to close down are rural elementary schools; therefore elementary students will have to be bused into Prince George;
  2. Increase class sizes;
  3. “Cut district infrastructure” (a.k.a., for the most part, laying off staff).

None of these steps are very conducive to protecting education; however all this is to save $7 million in order to be able to deliver a balanced budget in the 2010-11 school year.

Why does the school district all of a sudden have to save $7 million? Because the BC Liberal government choose to pile more obligations to school boards, such as all-day kindergarten, carbon reduction requirements, and higher MSP Premiums without giving school boards the extra money to pay for them. Because the BC Liberal government choose to take away the Annual Facility Grant used to maintain school buildings. Well, I suppose at least the BC Liberals choose to give school boards a rebate on the HST.

Remember too that this is coming from a school board that had to shut down 14 schools in 2002, during the early Campbell BC Liberal government. Oh, and to make things even worse, the report suggests that School District #57 will have to cut a further $4 million in the future.

So what does this have to do with somebody that is not living in School District #57? Simple. A lot of other BC school boards are facing the same fiscal pressures as School District #57, and might have to take similar action. Heck, it’s already happening in Vancouver.

Of course, the BC Liberals still have time to protect education. They still have time to amend this year’s budget take responsibility for the extra costs that they have added to school boards. They still have time to prove that they didn’t lie during the election.

Well, What Do You Know? BC Boards of Education To Get HST Rebate

January 15, 2010 1 comment

It seems that the BC Liberals have finally decided to give Board of Educations, Post-Secondary Institutions and Hospitals a HST rebate so that these organizations are not spending more money on taxes and less money on their purposes.

One really has to ask the question: why wasn’t the HST designed and announced with these rebates in the first place? There is simply no excuse for this oversight. After all, the BC Liberals have been down this road before; they neglected to give rebates to boards of education and municipalities when the carbon tax was implemented, and then later organized a rebate for the tax.

Of course, there is a cynical answer: the announcement for the HST tax rebate was held back until now, just before the affected organizations will be announcing service cutbacks because of reductions to funding, to try to soften the blow for the BC Liberal government.

A Blueprint For Amalgamation of BC’s Boards of Education?

September 16, 2009 Comments off

Picture 5It seems that there is a movement from the BC Liberal Government to amalgamate BC’s already large (geographically or population-wise) Boards of Education.

Which leads to the question: how would the BC Liberals try to implement and sell amalgamation? A government document entitled “School Centred Leadership/Shared Business Systems” presented in 2006 by Emery Dosdall, then Deputy Minister of Education, may provide the answer.

If I do say so myself, it’s actually quite a clever blueprint for the amalgamation of BC’s Boards of Education. Why heck, it doesn’t even contain the word and actually seems to begins in the opposite direction.

The first part of the document, entitled “School Centred Leadership“, seems to be promoting a decentralization of the school system. It makes the case for giving individual schools more autonomy to “make decisions that impact the learning of their students.” It calls for the creation of “School Planning Councils.” Perhaps most significantly, it calls for schools getting funding on a per-student basis.

Sounds like it could be agreeable so far, doesn’t it? Well, that is, until one reads the second part of the document: “Shared Business Systems.”

Shared Business Systems is the part of the document that promotes centralization. It recommends that Boards of Education share services. It suggests that a Board can provide some services to other Boards and the same Board can buy services from other Boards. The goal of this sharing? To minimize duplication and overlap, to enable better information gathering systems with the Ministry, and to better align Boards to Ministry policies.

Some might be asking: where does the amalgamation part come in?

It’s simple. If a whole series of Boards of Education are sharing, buying and selling services to each other, than why deal with extra layers of governance? Why not merge many Boards into one? If parents are able supposedly able to exercise more power at the school level, then why have an elected Board of Education?

In short, School Centred Leadership/Shared Business Systems could, if applied in the correct manner, be a way to sell amalgamation as something that improves the control of parents into the school system.

P.S.: H/T to this article for alerting me to the existence of School Centred Leadership/Shared Business Systems. Interestingly enough, it is a rather hard document to find.

Amalgamation Of BC Boards Of Education?

August 31, 2009 4 comments

It seems the part of the review of BC’s 60 Boards of Education announced in last week’s throne speech involves ordering them to look at amalgamation.

Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but the last time the BC Liberals amalgamated a bunch of entities, the end result looked like this and the entities were not elected by the public anymore.

We’ll just have to see if this is a trial balloon, or something more serious.