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Time to Abolish School Boards

Time to Abolish School Boards

This website will not be renewed as of May 18, 2017. In the 11 years of this site’s history a lot has changed. More logic and events have come to bear on the topic of abolishing school boards. Charter schools, especially in America, are growing and they do bypass centralized school boards. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are becoming a reality, again in the US. And the new Education Secretary under President Donald Trump’s regime (Nov 2016) , Betsy DeVos, is promoting family choice, a disruptive factor that will challenge school board relevancy. There is also much awareness in Canada.

Today’s (20170509) search via Google produces these items (only a few selected) :

1. Abolish School Boards — 2014
abolish-school-boards.org
Abolishing school boards would release intended education dollars to their intended targets – students. At the moment far too much of that earmarked money is …   (this site — http://abolish-school-boards.org/ )

2. Abolish the school boards – The Globe and Mail
www.theglobeandmail.com/…/abolish-the-school-boards/…
“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards.” – Mark Twain. Talk about dysfunction. The Toronto District School … (MARGARET WENTE Abolish the school boards, The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2014 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/abolish-the-school-boards/article21859859/ )

3. Should governments close our school boards? – The Globe and Mail
www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/should-governments…
British Columbia Alberta … Should governments close our school boards? … the movement to abolish school boards recently gained some ground when a political …( KATE HAMMER – EDUCATION REPORTER The Globe and Mail Published Friday, Jul. 16, 2010 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/should-governments-close-our-school-boards/article1389140/ )

4. Abolish School Boards | Is it time to abolish school boards …
articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-02-17/news/bs-ed-schools…
School boards have been around in one form or another since Colonial days. Their numbers peaked in 1930 at 127,000 but have dwindled to 14,000 today. (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-02-17/news/bs-ed-schools-boards-20110217_1_board-members-national-school-board-association-board-responsibilities )

5. Is It Time to Abolish the School Board? – The K-12 Contrarian … blogs.edweek.org/edweek/…/abolish_the_school_board.html…
Apr 28, 2017 · Last week I wrote about my (very brief) experience as a candidate for the local schoolboard. My candidacy, like the selection process, was pretty much …  ( http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/K-12_Contrarian/2015/03/abolish_the_school_board.html?plckFindCommentKey=CommentKey:b11ba1d3-25bd-486b-b5ff-ef513b4a786d )

6. KONRAD YAKABUSKI The jig is up for Canada’s school boards The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Apr. 23, 2017   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-jig-is-up-for-canadas-school-boards/article34790863/ —one of the comments is below:
"mcguirp2 April 24, 2017
Terrific article – really speaks to one of the reasons education in Canada – especially Ontario cannot really become excellent – so many levels of bureaucracy, not only trustees, but most board officials act in their own self interest with very little understanding of what is good for kids. I wrote a longer response here – https://paulmcguire1.com/2017/04/24/why-do-we-have-school-boards/
Hope there is a follow-up to this article!
Paul McGuire – former principal OCSB (Ottawa)"

Professional Teachers or Union Activists

 

 

This is an important article on the topic of professional associations vs unions for teachers.  I copied it out a few months ago, but somehow it seems to have disappeared or been cleansed off the Internet.  I can't find it again.  Anyway, since it's an important topic I provide the link again.

UPDATE 091127:  The article I refer to is here  http://www.ednews.org/blogs/professional-teachers-or-political-union.html

Title:  Professional Teachers or Political Union, with 16 interesting comments, 1 of mine.  I keep recommending it to friends, teachers, parents, trustees — because it shows there can be a choice to mandatory teacher union membership.  That is what we have in Canada in the public school system — only mandatory teacher unions.

In the US most teachers have the option to join a professional educator association, as well as obtain a rebate for that portion of their fees which is deemed to being used for political purposes.

This aricle, in my experience, has "disappeared" from the Internet from time to time as I've been recommending it over the last 2 months. I copied it out word for word and it is elsewhere on my blog.  If the above link does not work, see:  http://abolish-school-boards.org/2009/10/teachers-professionals-or-union-activists/     I do not have the 16 comments which are really worth reading.

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 http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/default.aspx)

“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. http://www.canada.com/northshorenews/news/viewpoint/story.html?id=95b2a310-5421-43b5-9646-f975e8883d78

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.   http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/reportcard/archive/2009/10/11/dissolve-school-boards-and-move-education-to-municipal-councils.aspx

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.
091122
 

School Boards are Agents of the State

 

Instead of being overseers of education in their communities and the representatives of parents and public to the bureaucrrats in the school board office, trustees are really an extension of the provincial government.  Elected trustees and board officials, once they get in tandem after the first few months after an election and some training, become field agents to the central authority.  They are not autonomous like municipal councils.

This was well-described by a newspaper reporter before the last board elections last fall, 2008.

http://www.canada.com/northshorenews/news/viewpoint/story.html?id=95b2a310-5421-43b5-9646-f975e8883d78

School trustees Victoria’s puppets

"No taxation without . . . meaningful representation."

By Bill Bell, North Shore News October 12, 2008

If ever there was a dirty political trick played on the people in British Columbia, it is when we go to the polls every three years to elect school board trustees in the belief that the people we will elect will have a real say in the management of our childrens’ schools and education.

It was more than 30 years ago when I was first assigned the school board beat by then North Shore News publisher Peter Speck. Both North and West Vancouver school boards had "big" personalities running them, and in those days the trustees had real power over local taxation and in negotiating with the teachers and staff.

North Vancouver had Marg Jessup and Dorothy Lynas to name but two great and wonderful trustees who played significant roles in the development of the schools on the North Shore. And of course West Vancouver was chaired by the youngest politician in Canada, West Vancouver political power broker Mark Sager. School board meetings were always packed to the brim with concerned parents, teachers and taxpayers as board members dealt with bona fide issues at the local level.

Now the trustees are frontline fall guys to the directives that come from across the Strait of Georgia. No real budget control, no real control over the physical schools, and as far as negotiating with teachers, the real power there was taken away years ago.

So why would a bright and politically astute guy, like Chris Dorais, who has been chair of the North Vancouver school board and a trustee for the past six years want to run again in the November municipal elections?

I asked Dorais what he thought would make for better education on the North Shore; his answers didn’t really surprise me.

"Three changes would make a significant difference for the role of our board of education in local decision making:

  •      reinstating local taxation authority;
  •      dismantling provincial bargaining;
  •     discontinuing any provincial control over our local capital assets and sale of property.

"The biggest complaint I have . . . is not necessarily the increase in powers I would like to see, but is more about the constant change in authority delegated through School Act changes as well as ministerial orders. They seem to be an annual event or sometimes more frequent, and they take place with no consultation. "

What Dorais is saying is that even if the powers that be in Victoria gave back some of the local authority that they have taken away (school board local autonomy has been dismantled under all three of the past political administrations, Social Credit, New Democrat and most recently by the Liberals), the lack of any consistency by the government in its directives is driving him and many other school trustees crazy — not to mention a few school superintendents.

"Two recent examples would be the government’s 2007/2008 mid-school year announcement on reducing funding through a per-course payment for secondary students after the budget was already set, and more recently the announcement of restrictions on the sale of properties," Dorais explained.

So what is the answer? "The province has been taking away our local control of schools over the past 25 years. I really doubt that they will return that power to our local school representatives," said Dorais.

But he thinks that some power could be returned to the school boards and if that happened there would be some very quick improvements to the school system. Two that would make an immediate and substantial difference with additional funding are:

  •    long-term lease of surplus properties resulting in ongoing funds targeted to new equipment and technology for teachers and students in the classroom. Say Dorais: "I would like to see every school equipped like our new Sutherland secondary."
  •   funding for professional development and implementation of a new model for special needs education providing a choice for families and students and providing more support resources to help students and teachers in the classroom in the area of special needs.

Dreaming? Or strongly believing that his participation can make a difference in the lives and education of North Vancouver school children, Dorais is sticking to his principles and once again putting his hat into a political ring that demands long and hard hours. The only real satisfaction he gets is the smiles on the faces of June’s graduation classes.

Must be worth it!

bill@ontheroadin.ca