(Quebec) The Minister of Education François Blais abandon the proposed merger of school boards. Unlike his predecessor Yves Bolduc, he does not believe that the operation would have to achieve economies.
On the sidelines of a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday, Mr. Blais announced that the draft law on school governance, due this fall, will not include mergers and redrawing of school boards. These mergers, on which the government was working for months, are relegated to oblivion.
Documents prepared by Quebec were dangled theoretical savings of 60 million with the merger of school boards, whose number was to rise from 72 to 46. Yves Bolduc had argued that each cluster would save at a minimum between $ 500,000 and a million. “My predecessor had perhaps felt that there was money to be made, but there is not a forced process of rapid decline,” argued François Blais. Le Marois government, which also wanted to merge the school boards, had estimated the savings to 125 million in three to five years, according to the 2014 budget Marceau.
“There were figures and assumptions which have been circulating, but I found that these assumptions, given the past, what happened there not so long ago in Quebec, were not strong enough” , the Minister added.
François Blais recalled that according to the Bouchard government, the merger of school boards made in the late 90s was to savings of 100 million. But the operation was rather caused costs 70 million, he has said. Here he resumed the argument advanced by the Federation of school boards to oppose the government project.
In the bill, the minister, however, retain “power to force one, two or three mergers in the future if necessary, if the school boards do not reach a certain goal in terms of efficiency.”
François Blais maintains that the role of school boards will be reviewed in order to grant more autonomy to schools. School elections will be abolished as planned.
“I decided that this (note: mergers) was not the essence of our reform, but that it was rather governance,” Mr. Blais said. It encourages and is willing to force school boards to make service clusters, as some already do, to improve their efficiency.
The Federation of Quebec school boards “cautiously welcomes” the statements of the Minister Blais. “Given the rigorous demonstration by the Federation and its members on the costs of large-scale mergers, the Minister had no choice but to surrender to the evidence that there would be no savings and this, as we always said, “said its president Josée Bouchard in a statement. However, it notes that the Minister said that mergers of services or school boards could be enacted if deemed necessary. “This is an important distinction that should encourage us not to jump to conclusions,” she said. Ms. Bouchard also reiterated that “the disappearance of the school elected by universal suffrage would be an inestimable loss for so-called democratic society.”
For the PQ Alexandre Cloutier MP, Minister Blais wanted to “diversion” with its announcement on the abandonment of the proposed merger. “You have a report that made headlines in La Presse in which it clearly states that the minister is directly responsible for cuts in student services, and (the) Minister panic out elements of a reform to come change the subject “said the spokesman of the official opposition in education.