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.From MacDonald:
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.
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.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.
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.
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.