The Current

Value of elected school boards disputed by parents, governments

Elections voted on by the public take place nearly all across our country, yet we don't seem all that interested in who sits on our school boards...at least by the turn out at the ballot box. There are jurisdictions where school boards are appointed. To elect or not to elect our school boards?
How do we fix Canada's school boards? (Phil Roeder, Flickr cc)
I don't see the relevancy for schools, I don't see the relevancy for budget cuts. It will be possible to change the configuration of school boards in the future, but in the short term I prefer to work on governance, the importance to protect the autonomy and revitalize the autonomy of schools.-  François Blais, Quebec's Education Minister

Education Minister François Blais has decided they will not merge school boards across the province, saying it wouldn't save that much money.

Quebec Education Minister François Blais has studied other school board mergers and says there wouldn't be as many cost savings merging school boards as previously expected. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Perhaps it is no surprise Canadians have been wondering what it is that their elected school board members actually do, other than bicker and get into trouble.

The governing Liberals plan to table a bill this fall to bring in a whole new - as yet unspecified - system. This after the province spent 20-million dollars on the last school board election - and only 5% of French board voters showed up.

Nationally, only 15 per cent of those eligible actually vote in school board elections. And some analysis has suggested that even in that small number, random votes aren't uncommon.

During a federal election that has its own concerns about how many people will show up to vote,  we convened a panel of parents to look at whether the democratic power to elect people to look after our schools has become a relic.

  • Eric Langlois is a father with two kids in Montreal's French school board. 
  • Leif Helmer has three kids at Petite Riviere Elementary School in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia. 
  • Cathy Dandy is a former elected school board trustee and education activist. She joined us in our Toronto studio. 
     

Have you had to deal with your local elected school officials? Was it a good experience - or something that made you doubt the system?  

Send us an email. You can always find us on Facebook or tweet us @TheCurrentCBC.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.
 

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