MONTREAL – David D’Aoust, President of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) lashed out at the PQ government’s draft bill deposited this week that will remove some $100 million from public education funding over the next two years. Bill 63 calls for Quebec school boards outside of the island of Montreal to reimburse school-taxpayers for that total amount, suggesting that those school boards erred in imposing substantial school-tax increases last summer. While the average individual rebates will be modest, the further cut to school boards could prove very damaging.

“Premier Pauline Marois is trying to dress this up as a credit to over-burdened taxpayers but it’s nothing of the sort,” declared D’Aoust. “Her government’s first budget last November cut funds to public education in a major way, and then set up school boards as the villains by allowing us to raise school taxes to recover at least part of those cuts. Well, we understand how difficult the current economic context is but it is also very difficult for our school boards, who have, over the past few years, made enormous financial sacrifices to help balance the provincial deficit. That said, our school boards also know that their primary responsibility is to protect quality educational services to our students across the province. That’s why we had no choice but to raise school taxes to maintain those services. Our school boards are constantly seeking greater efficiencies so that we can concentrate funds on the classroom. Taxpayers might eventually regret the Premier’s alleged largesse; it will come with a price to be paid by our students, and that it terribly unfair.”

This controversy was the subject of two direct meetings between school board leaders and the Premier earlier this Fall. QESBA stands by the performance of its nine member school boards who, collectively, maintain a ratio of administrative expenditures that tops any other government or para-public service in the province. They do so while producing high-school student success rates of close to 80 per cent – a target set by government for the Year 2020. “QESBA will continue to collaborate, as it must, with the MELS (Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport) to deliver and evaluate school programs and services,” D’Aoust added. “If we didn’t have school boards in place, how easy it would be for the government to run roughshod over our schools and most importantly, our students! Moving forward, we trust that we will be able to count on our government partners to put students first – a principle that has been left behind with this bill.”

D’Aoust also reacted with little enthusiasm to Education Minister Marie Malavoy’s appointment today of a “groupe d’experts” with a wide-ranging mandate to examine the over-all funding, administration, management and governance of school boards. QESBA’s suggestion that the Association be part of the group was summarily rejected by the Premier during those Fall meetings. “I find this profoundly disappointing,” D’Aoust added. “This government is pretty much suggesting that school boards are not doing their job, which I categorically reject. On every barometer that matters: French second-language instruction, 21st-century learning, inclusion of all students in school life, accountability to parents and taxpayers, we have a few lessons we could offer government rather than the reverse. Our school boards will always be ready to embrace positive change. It is more than a little galling to have this government consistently suggest otherwise.”

SOURCE Quebec English School Boards Association

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