Friday, September 11, 2009

Bill 177 / provincial interest consultations

This bubbled up again while on hiatus and earlier this week, a short work week where we were short-staffed, so the ability to give this space some lovin' was compromised. Nonetheless, the media coverage of Bill 177 and the associated public interest regulation consultation which closed Aug. 31 has drawn commentary across the province.
Moira MacDonald wrote about the bill and the regulation consultation at the beginning of the month. The Ottawa Citizen came in a few days later, nicely timed with the start of Ottawa boards' second week of classes, with an article outlining Ottawa-Carleton District School Board chair Lynn Scott's concerns.
From the Citizen piece:
The new regulations will dovetail with Bill 177, introduced quietly last May and expected to get second reading this month.
Observers fear the changes would limit flexibility in the school system and threaten local democracy.
"The whole thing is troubling to many of us," said Lynn Scott, chairwoman of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and a 15-year veteran trustee.
"There are so many aspects of student success that are beyond a board's control. If funding is not sufficient to do certain things, whose fault is that?" she said.
From MacDonald:
Officially, Bill 177 is supposed to clear up the job descriptions for trustees, school boards and set student achievement as school boards' focus. But what the bill really means won't be known until the Liberals release its related regulations -- after the bill passes.
That big unknown is what's making the education sector squeamish.
Thanks to the discussion paper, they already know it will mean the government stepping in and taking over school boards that show "persistent problems relating to student achievement, effective stewardship, and good governance."
Real consequences for poor student achievement? You can see why trustees would be outraged.
School board feedback on the paper was due back to the province yesterday -- one reason boards are mad. They felt the province pulled a fast one by giving them only two months to consult on something with potentially dire consequences for themselves.
Both seem to forget one important facet of the regulation situation. Back in the spring of 2006, then-minister Gerard Kennedy laid the foundation for Bill 177 in Bill 78. It was seen through to Royal Assent by Sandra Pupatello, but this bill was the Liberals' first omnibus tweaking of the Education Act. Attention at the time was easily focused on the amendments Bill 78 made regarding trustee honoraria and student-trustee roles. It also included the New Teacher Induction Program, replacing the much-hated teacher recertification intro'd by the previous Tory government. However, it included a number of clauses allowing the government to set regulations on student achievement.
The Liberals just haven't set those regulations yet. Now, with Bill 177 moving through the Legislature, they've issued the provincial interest regulations. Some of these however, already have the legal authority to be implemented by cabinet thanks to Bill 78. This current bill takes the next step permitted by Bill 78 -- we can set standards for boards regarding student achievement, now we're telling you what the consequences might be for not meeting them.
The summertime consultation... yes, trustee associations have a point in their feedback. The Ontario Public School Trustees Association release and submission (which correctly ID these regs as pertaining to both bills) both speak to what could be conspicuous timing on the province's part. The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association hasn't posted its submission yet, if it indeed prepared one.
As a concluding comment, I'm not a big fan of legislation through regulation. Regs are easier to put into place as they are implemented by the 'Lieutenant-governor in council,' legislative jargon for the provincial cabinet. As such, they're not subject to the more public airing and debate that naturally happens when legislation is created through bills. So the legislature debates bills giving the government the power to then create and set the actual rules at the cabinet table.
Works great when cabinet's priorities are aligned with broad public opinion. Doesn't work so well when the cabinet's wishes run contrary to what people want or what actually works best.


Anonymous said...

I think that with these sorts of consultations there is a general idea of what the gov't wants to do, so they go out and tweek folks then massage the regulations to do exactly what they planned in the first place.

The more the gov't takes charge of policies and directions through provincial regs. the less relative
school boards become to having any real local ownership.

Oh, and what will boards do when as of January they have to set up a complaints process with parents.

Have you heard about that yet ER?

Seems to me that trustees and yes, those Parent Involvement Committees and School Councils should be busy forming that process?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to seeing what they do differently when they actually take over a board in order to improve student achievement...if they know the answer perhaps they should just take them all over

Anonymous said...

No matter what the Ministry does, or the Board does, or the schools and teachers do, a child that doesn't want to learn won't. It begins at home with the parents and their involvment and encouragement of learning.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 9:02 - Permit me to totally disagree with you re: that it starts at home with the parents.

What happened to the great equalizer that was once public education?

My parents didn't have time to be involved and enthusiastic my education. They trusted that the system would educate me and the scores of my classmates at a time when classes were 35+ students.

My parents didn't dwell on spending time helping me read..I hated reading, but through the proven programs used by my teachers I got the basics I needed and my parents hardly ever set foot in my school.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 9:02 -- I understand what you're saying. Not every family can or wants to be ultra-engaged in their child's education. But I think the previous poster's point was more that some families don't care at all about school. If the kids show up, if they don't, if they pass, if they fail, etc.
For whatever reason, what the adults are living just doesn't include caring about their kids and school (often their kids and anything at all, for some families).
Would your parents have tolerated you dropping out of school? Many parents wouldn't, even if they don't have their finger on the pulse of what their kids are doing every day.

To earlier posts as well-- how do you measure the kid who doesn't want to learn? Each teacher will know who those students in his/her class are, but how do you track that? How do you quantify it and make it useful information to act upon?
Better yet, how do you change it? There are many answers to this last question.
I don't think you'll start seeing assessment data (EQAO or other) that tracks "I don't care about learning" as a specific outcome. Having said that, some of the EQ pre-test survey questions ask how students like reading, etc.

Anonymous said...

ER - sometimes schools the way we know they are not what's right for all children. Those kids who "don't care about learning" may care in a different environment, using different programs and dare I say it in an alternative school.

Who said that public education was the only way in which children learn?

It's not.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 17:27 agreed-- my own experience has been skill-based instruction and outdoor education / outdoor recreation which can capture a completely different audience.

Anonymous said...

ER - what a coincidence. My experience is also with outdoor education and recreation and I'm not the poster-child for traditional schooling by a long shot.