If voter turnout for school board elections stays below 20 per cent the education minister should appoint the board, says the report from the Education Governance Commission released Monday.

Voter participation in school board elections is notoriously low. For the last trustee election it was 3.8 per cent.

Amongst the 48 recommendation of the commission is that if voter turnout doesn't increase to 20 per cent within the next two elections the education minister should simply appoint a trustee.

"Islanders, if they value elected boards, if this matters, they going to have to get involved, and not passively assume that someone else is going to step up," commission member Carrie St. Jean told CBC News.

Lower voter age

The commission is also suggesting youth become more involved in the process.

It wants the voting age for school board elections lowered to 16 and a student representative on each board.

The commission was established last year to look at how the Island school system is organized. Some of the highlights of its report include:

  • Public input on selecting principals.
  • Less administration for principals and more working with teachers.
  • Trustees could not be acclaimed. Would have to face yes/no vote.
  • Education minister could appoint a trustee in any zone with less than a 20 per cent voter turnout in two consecutive elections.
  • New model for educating teachers, with more in-classroom training.
  • Curriculum changes put on hold while new plan is developed.
  • Reassess special education.
  • Annual public reporting on spending.
  • Replace the School Act with a new Education Act.

Despite speculation, the committee does not suggest merging the two English school boards. It says a merger would cost rather than save money and be detrimental to students.

"Three years following an amalgamation of school boards, the costs for board administration actually went up. So the pre-conceived idea that there would be some savings wasn't realized in a number of board amalgamations," said commission co-chair Bill Whelan.

"So we couldn't point to anything that would suggest that there would be savings. We couldn't point to anything that says there would be a positive impact on community engagement. In fact board mergers could have a negative impact on community engagement because of the geographical areas."

Imelda Arsenault, acting senior director of learning and early childhood development, said the review is overdue.

"The governance hasn't been looked at for the last 20 years," said Arsenault.

"It was to look at what does it look like and where should we go from here. What should we do … to improve student achievement for all students on P.E.I."

Arsenault said the Department of Education will now review recommendations.

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