Montreal

Anglo rights will be respected when school boards abolished, education minister says

"Of course, it is important to do it right and to do it by respecting the rights of the anglophone communities to control and manage schools," said Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.

Group representing English school boards calls CAQ's plan 'an erosion of local democracy'

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says in place of school boards, Quebec will have service centres run by governing boards. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge insists anglophone rights will be protected as he pushes forward with Coalition Avenir Québec's campaign promise to abolish school boards.

"The services for the students will be improved," Roberge told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Tuesday.

"Of course, it is important to do it right and to do it by respecting the rights of the anglophone communities to control and manage schools."

Though it is slated to be tabled in January, he said the legislation is still being polished as he meets and discusses the plan with school communities across the province.

He said the government is "open minded" when it comes to modifying the proposed plan to ensure it protects rights and adheres to the constitution.

Power to go to service centres 

The government will be handing the power of school boards off to "service centres" that "give back the schools to the community," he said.

It was proposed that these centres would be integrated into and managed by the ministry, but after consulting with the community, he said the government is backing away from that plan.

Instead, these service centres will be run by members of school governing boards comprised of local professionals, parents, teachers and principals.

"Those people, representing the community, will manage the school and will have an empowerment," Roberge said, adding that key decisions, such as school closures, will be made by the governing boards.

Roberge indicated each school's own governing board would choose representatives to sit on the centres' boards.

Click here to listen to the full interview:

'Erosion of local democracy'

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), which has been an outspoken critic of the plan, continues to press for changes.

"It does not respond to the needs regionally," executive director Russell Copeman told Daybreak.

"It's an erosion of local democracy and in our view, with regards particularly to the English-speaking community, it's an erosion of our constitutional rights to control and manage our schools."

The minister met with English and French school boards last week and Copeman attended that meeting.

Copeman said it's still unclear how much autonomy the centres will have. 

To decentralize the education system without having some regional coordination is "pie in the sky in our view," he added.

"And who is going to perform that regional coordination? According to the CAQ, it's going to be civil servants named by the minister with a very limited degree of autonomy," he said.

"That's not appropriate for our community. It's not appropriate for the province of Quebec."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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