Archive for the '101 Reasons to Abolish' Category

Abolish School Boards — 2014

Times Colonist (Victoria BC) Editorial, May 4, 2014

Editorial: Limit number of school boards

When the Cowichan Valley school board was sacked in 2012, it appeared a rough road lay ahead. The provincial education minister of the day, George Abbott, dismissed the trustees for ignoring regulations and running a deficit.

In place of the board, Abbott appointed a well-respected administrator from Surrey, Mike McKay. But there were fears that a single individual, however capable, could not provide the kind of leadership that a locally elected board can offer.

Yet two years later, the $3.7-million deficit has been eliminated with a minimum of drama or rancour. A difficult situation has been resolved, and the district has moved on.

The Education Ministry is sufficiently impressed that McKay has been asked to assist other boards around the province. Quite a performance.

And it raises an interesting question. Cowichan is by no means the only district with financial difficulties. Two decades of declining pupil enrolments have left numerous boards struggling to cope.

Should the Cowichan model be extended to other districts that find themselves in dire straits? Probably not. Elected officials are answerable to the community in a way that appointed administrators are not.

Nevertheless, a strong case can be made that the status quo isn’t working. School board mandates have narrowed over the years. They no longer negotiate teacher contracts.

They have no meaningful say in setting property taxes. They have only a limited impact on curriculum design.

Yet B.C. retains 60 of these bureaucracies, the same number we had in the late 1990s when there were 100,000 more children. Some are handling ridiculously small enrolments.

Several have fewer than than 1,000 students: One has only 240. That doesn’t leave much room to manoeuvre.

Here in the capital region, four separate boards (Victoria, Saanich, Sooke and Gulf Islands) are administering half the number of kids that Surrey’s school district deals with. There are five more in the centre of Vancouver Island, four of them with marginal enrolments.

And those head offices aren’t cheap. Across the province, school districts paid their senior administrators $24 million in 2012. Those in the capital region took home about $2.3 million.

In even the smallest districts, officials such as superintendents and treasurers earn six figures. The superintendent in that region with 240 pupils makes $200,000.

Also, these dollar amounts include only the compensation of top managers. The total staff bill is certainly much larger.

With budgets so tight and more school closures looming, this kind of feather-bedding cannot be justified.

Then there is the question of economies of scale. While some bulk purchasing agreements exist, the proliferation of districts is an obstacle to greater efficiency. Merge some of the smaller boards, and supplies could be bought more cheaply.

Easier said than done, of course. In remote regions of the province, it may not be feasible to amalgamate boards where long distances are involved.

However, Surrey, the district with the highest enrolment, has 70,000 kids. Taking that as a maximum, and leaving remote districts untouched, there is room for some serious consolidation. It should be possible to reduce the number of boards by at least 25. That would save $10 million or so in six-figure salaries. Add in the rest of the payroll and savings of $20 million might be found.

This has been done before. In 1996, 19 boards were dissolved. And the funding situation was not nearly so precarious then.

Could the school system be run adequately with 35 regional boards? The health-care system manages with five.

The process of transition would be tough sledding, of course. But $20 million would keep a lot of classrooms open. It would help prevent the cancellation of discretionary programs, such as band or field trips, and it would buy time until enrolments begin to recover. Those are worthy objectives.

Abolish School Boards — a movement yet?


Abolishing school boards would release intended education dollars to their intended targets – students.  At the moment far too much of that earmarked money is skimmed off at the school board level for: a) for junkets and expensive conferences/professional development for trustees, administrators, consultants, etc. many of whom have little direct relationship with students; b) professional services such as public relations advice, legal services, and other non-student related fees; c) entrepreneurial businesses and recruitment of foreign students meant to add income (profits) to the budget but which may actually yield serious expenses and costs; d) misspending due to faulty accounting and reporting procedures; e) etc., etc.

This is my essay “Abolish School Boards” published on the blog Report Card, a production of the Education Reporter, Janet Steffenhagen, for the Vancouver Sun.

Abolish School Boards

(by Tunya Audain, 091122, published in Report Card blog of Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun Education Reporter on story, “Trustees have tough job but no power, columnist says” 091122

“District’s new decals a sign of poor management”. That’s the title of a letter to the editor by Craig Johnston to the North Shore News, who, in true whistleblower fashion, alerts us to what he perceives as misconduct of the school board and a waste of taxpayer dollars.  This self-aggrandizement, he says, is “nauseating”.  (This item was discussed in a previous blog story.)

Were it not for citizen watchdogs alerting us through media channels I fear that the public would never see how public institutions such as school boards are abandoning their intended mission – that of serving the best interests of children instead of their own perverse needs.

It’s no wonder that there are increasingly more calls for abolishing these twisty and twisted school boards of today.

Coincidentally, in the same issue of the North Shore News as was Craig’s letter, a regular columnist, Bill Bell, has some very harsh words regarding school boards as pretenses of local government.  In a previous article he calls “School trustees Victoria’s puppets” and this state exists regardless of the political ideological regime, whether NDP, Social Credit or Liberal.

In his latest column as reported above, Bell, a well-know media person, ramps up the “Abolish School Boards” movement.  From citizens in this education blog ever more frequently calling for the demise of this dysfunctional and counterproductive structure, to school board candidates (I was one last fall whose main plank was to work to abolish school boards), to an ex-superintendent, Doug Player, arguing for dissolution of the boards, we now add a media voice to the call.

It is definitely time for more citizens to add their voices to dismantle the present inefficient model of education delivery.

In the cause of liberating education dollars away from the vested special interests – and there are dozens of categories here (teacher unions, administrator groups, teacher training institutions, burgeoning legal outfits, public relations consultants, early childhood education lobbies, etc., etc.) – and bringing commonsense and local autonomy back to the grassroots, we must challenge this cancerous behemoth that suffocates. No wonder they call themselves “stakeholders”.  The “stakes” are indeed high!

More citizen voices need to be raised against those powerful groups who insidiously and consistently block needed reform out of selfish greed. Yet, and we see it all the time, they say they do it for the children!

A philosophy that trusts local parents and local teachers to produce educational results is a far better and much simpler form than central control and thousands of middle men and suckers who feed off the opportunities so easily exploited. The present school board model invites misspending, corruption, diversions and adventurism.

It is downright unethical and immoral what is going on under the cover of school boards.  The Detroit public school scandal is a cautionary tale of just how evil this can become.  Look it up.

The model school board that HAS proven most successful over time is the one that exists at the local school.  That has stood the test of time – the one room school house, the private independent school, the parent-participation pre-school, the charter school.  The dollar already is supposed to follow the child.  Bring it back to the local school instead of channeling it through the school board offices where it is mercilessly skimmed before reaching the classroom. Whether it be vouchers, charters, tuition tax credits or some other model, we need to recover those precious dollars that are needed for our precious children and grandchildren – FOR THEIR EDUCATION AND SPECIAL NEEDS.

Teacher Harrassment — Another Reason to Homeschool


More reasons to Abolish….

16.  Teacher harassment – another reason to homeschool.

Homeschool sites and blogs have been busy articulating the reasons they avoid schools.  One reason is to bypass indoctrination by teachers.  This site with YouTube video gives reason #142  to homeschool: “Obama Teachers won’t bully students who support McCain.”

The story relates to a teacher in the US, before their recent election, quizzing students about candidates.  But her remarks showed a decided bias for Obama and a berating of a girl who was on the verge of tears after saying McCain.  Read the story, the transcript, and the superintendent’s letter.

This story has gone around the world many times now, with headlines using words as Teacher — belittles, bullies, browbeats, hectors, ridicules, attacks — student who votes McCain. 

The comments from readers, mostly parents, are calling for firing  the teacher.  We await the decision of the School Board Superintendent.


Unruly School Boards Need Rules of Behavior

More Reasons to Abolish…….

15.  Unruly School Boards Need Rules of Behavior

Even though School Boards are supposed to work as a team, or a corporation, divisions do occur.  But, their handbooks and training are supposed to produce a unified front once decisions are made.  And the reason School Board Public Meetings are generally “civilized” (too civilized some would say to the point of being mechanical), is that REAL discussions are usually held in secret, behind closed doors.  A good article written by a former trustee in BC talks about this issue.

However, sometimes Boards do become publically fractious and dysfunctional.  Then the provincial Ministry of Education steps in and disbands the board and provides an administrator to govern.  This has happened in BC several times in my memory in a number of districts.

Nova Scotia has just introduced new legislation to help boards maintain “discipline and decorum”.  Comments to the newstory
add more flavor to the issue:

Why doesn’t the province just take them over, and run them? After some of the problems in the past it seems to be a good time to do it!!

I fully support this bill. Our public servants should be serving the public and not wasting their time on personal vendettas and power struggles. It’s about the students.