Monday, October 12, 2009

Bill 177 redux

As was noted in an earlier comment, Bill 177 passed second reading, on Oct. 7. It has been referred to the legislature's standing committee on social policy prior to third and final reading. There are no changes to the bill (usually, these come after committee vetting prior to being posted for third reading).
For a summation of the bill written after its first reading was posted, see this post. See this post for commentary, and this one for the related public-interest regulation consultation.
The debates, if you have the inclination to read them, are always interesting to start looking at where the government and the two opposition parties are staking their ground.
A portion of Minister Kathleen Wynne's remarks from the first day of debate:
So we're proposing to amend the Education Act to clearly state that boards are responsible for promoting student outcomes and student achievement, and this would be laid out in provincial interest regulations.
Another change would involve direction on handling school board resources effectively. This would include carefully developing the budget, managing assets in a responsible manner and allocating resources in a way that would support the board's multi-year strategic plan. It hasn't always been the case that we've had access to a multi-year plan. In effect, this bill would help ensure that board resources are managed wisely, effective education programs are delivered and students are encouraged to pursue their goals. As a result, all board expenses would align with board priorities, particularly in supporting student achievement. That alignment has been uneven, and I think that we need to make sure that there are mechanisms to ensure that kind of consistency.
Bill 177 is the next logical step-which I think the sector knew was coming, because Bill 78 had already been passed in 2006-because it clarifies for boards, directors of education and school trustees their roles and duties to support higher student achievement and well-being, so it flows out of the work we did in Bill 78. If Bill 177 passes, the government would establish provincial interest regulations that will outline the supports and interventions to carry out their important work. I come back to that word "supports" because it is about supporting boards to do the work that they need to do.
Other speakers to the bill during second-reading debate included former PC minister of education Elizabeth Witmer and NDP education critic Rosario Marchese. Marchese used his entire allotted hour to do a clause-by-clause dissection of the bill, with frequent references to other events and criticisms of the McGuinty government. Leg. assistant Leanna Pendergast kicked off the second day of debates, along with Rick Johnston for the government, with responses by Julia Munro, Paul Miller and Peter Kormos. John Yakabuski, Michael Prue and John O'Toole wrapped the last two days of debate.
I'll leave you with a snippet of Marchese's comments.
But trustees are elected. They should have some responsibilities that are not purely and completely defined by the government. What this bill does is to define their role, to constrain what they can do, what they can say. It's a shameful piece of legislation. It is an utterly shameful piece of legislation, and I hope to find stronger words as I go in the next 45 minutes to an hour to be able to decry elements of this bill, the content of this bill in its entirety. It will hurt those elected politicians, and I will say by the end of it that under these conditions and under what is given in this bill, what is written in this bill, it is no longer important to run for school trustee and it is no longer important to knock on doors and get elected given the way this bill circumscribes their role.


Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Marchese's comments.
Not only will this Bill work to kill off what little authority and responsibility trustees have left(thanks to the last 2 hands-on governments) but it moves the gov't further away from being accountable for the outcomes of our education system.

Still, given that the interest in trustee elections is slim at best to none at worst, you'd think that the trustees through their umbrella organization OPSBA would rally and get fighting back to protect what was once their local authority.

RetDir said...

Beg to differ Anon - it makes the government more directly accountable for outcomes, as the underlying assumption is that if boards can't do it the government can by taking them over...which begs the question of why they don't take us all over. The answer is found in New Brunswick, the only province that abolished school boards and then re-established them. Why? Because they make very useful scapegoats when things aren't going well - and the government doesn't have to take direct heat.

Education Reporter said...

OPSBA is on record and is making noise-- I was at a board meeting tonight where trustees were hot to trot on Bill 177.

Even if half of them don't realize the more dangerous regulations in the draft circulated this summer actually come from the bill from three years ago that's long passed. Too distracted at the time from the raises it gave trustees, the enhanced role for student trustees and the NTIP.

Now they're noticing.


Anonymous said...

RetDir. re: New Brunswick - you're right in that they abolished boards but the resulting reinstatement of them looks very different now than the boards before their abolishing.
VERY different indeed.

Also, I doubt that if the government took over every board in the province that it could deliver what boards can't.

The slap in the face to elected trustees is that sometimes those they should be able to trust(their own administration) works against them. Bluewater a case in point where in reading what ER has shared via their media, it seems the trustees have been bullied into submission and told what and what they can't do. If that's going on in other boards in the province it's very wrong indeed.

If all communities get from their school boards through their local media is how bad it all is and how they can't make ends meet, plus all of the other doom and gloom stuff perhaps boards need taking over all right...but not by those who pay the bills and are left employing the graduates??