CAQ's Legault pledges to abolish school boards
Liberal leader says plan ignores English-speaking community concerns
The Coalition Avenir Québec is promising to do away with the province’s 69 school boards and replace them with 30 regional service centres to manage student and school needs.
CAQ leader François Legault announced the plan at a Saturday morning news conference before hitting the campaign trail.
The plan is nothing new for CAQ and Legault, who made a similar pledge during the 2012 provincial election.
“This isn’t a question of cutting for the sake of cutting. Our goal is to bring people and resources closer together and provide services directly to students,” Legault said in a news release issued Saturday.
“It’s simply a question of efficiency and good sense.”
One education-related plank from Legault's 2012 platform that he has decided to drop is his call for a 20 per cent pay raise for the province's teachers.
On Saturday, Legault said a raise isn't possible given the province's economic situation.
"I want to but we just don't have the room to manoeuvre given the $2-billion deficit that the Parti Québécois has left us with," he said Saturday.
School boards "wasteful"
CAQ described the province's school boards as costly, increasingly unnecessary and even "wasteful."
Legault told reporters Saturday that the plan would save Quebec half of the $600 million that it allots annually to its school boards, which employ nearly 4,500 people.
Those savings would help to improve services for students and would eventually lead to the abolition of school taxes, he said.
“It would be the end of bureaucracy, reports, paperwork and committees,” Legault told reporters.
On Thursday, Legault pledged to save Quebec families an average of $1,000 a year through the progressive abolition of school and health taxes.
Quebec's nine English school boards would be replaced by nine service centres if CAQ is elected on April 7, Legault added.
Couillard questions plan
Quebec Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard said Legault's plan did not take into account the need for regional and English-language school boards.
"School boards are of the utmost importance for English-speaking communities because this is the institution where they have direct control, where community is represented, where they have direct access," he said.
"Not even to know that shows a total lack of knowledge and preoccupation and sensitivity to the community."
He also questioned what he saw as Legault's contradictory claims of wanting to save money by abolishing the boards and protecting job security.
Couillard, however, did agree with the need to streamline the work done by the school boards, saying less bureaucracy and more services were necessary.
English boards "protected" by Canadian Constitution: EMSB
Michael Cohen, spokesman for the English Montreal School Board, went so far as to say CAQ's proposal was unconstitutional.
"The English boards are protected by the Canadian constitution," Cohen contended via an email to CBC News on Saturday.
"It is a proposal without any meat on the bone."