District education councils say they are ready to make hard decisions about closing under-utilized schools in the anglophone school system and don't want the minister of education to stand in their way.
"The DECs are well aware of the fiscal reality and the need to find more cost-effective ways of delivering world-class education for New Brunswick students," state the four anglophone district education councils in a statement released concerning education issues to consider in the 2014 election campaign.
"DECs are ready to take action to find real savings and efficiencies within the district."
The councils note New Brunswick now has fewer than 100,000 students and the budget for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is now more than $1 billion. It says the cost of providing education services to students has consistently outpaced the department's annual budget allocation.
The four councils believe discussion about closing schools is one of the keys to finding efficiencies in the school system.
"This will allow much needed funding to be re-directed to the classroom. We must find money within the system and we cannot make additional cuts to our programs without impacting the classroom," the statement said.
'We must be prepared to make difficult decisions to rationalize our aging infrastructure.' - Anglophone district education councils
"We must be prepared to make difficult decisions to rationalize our aging infrastructure."
The Education Act gives district education councils the responsibility for identifying schools for potential closure and making recommendations to the education minister following public consultation.
The education minister then has the final decision on whether a school is to be closed.
"With all due respect, we request that the ministerial veto be removed from this process," state the four DECs.
They note other Canadian jurisdictions limit the minister's role to ensuring there has been fair and complete consultation.
Depoliticizing the education system
Removing politics from the education system has been a reoccurring them so far in the election campaign.
The Progressive Conservatives and Liberals have both offered different proposals that would take some power away from the education minister.
While other education experts have also said depoliticizing the school system is needed.
The four district education councils say the local officials should be making these decisions.
"Local DECs should maintain their responsibility for undertaking the review and must have the authority to make infrastructure decisions that are in the best interests of students in their community," the statement said.
New Brunswick has three francophone district education councils in addition to the four anglophone DECs.
"The DECs are committed to rationalizing schools and closing facilities that are under-populated, outdated, and inefficient. If the government is committed to fiscal responsibility, we must be able to do the necessary work without pressure or influence."
The anglophone DECs urge caution before any more changes are made to the system of delivering French second language education in the anglophone school system.
"Further changes will create confusion for parents and place unnecessary burdens on a system with limited resources."