According to the latest Viewpoint report issued by the Montreal Economic Institute, Quebec’s school boards might actually be hindering student performance.
“The Minister decided to drop the structural modifications to focus instead on academic success,” explaisn Youri Chassin, economist at the MEI and author of the report. “Yet abolishing school boards and entrusting schools with more autonomy and accountability would in fact promote the success of students, as many studies have shown.”
Board-provided services, like staff management, pedagogical support and school transportation, could easily be handled by autonomous schools, the report finds. At least, that’s what the province’s 342 private schools have been doing for years.
“In the absence of school boards, schools are free to use the teaching materials they consider most appropriate for their students, to manage their own resources to meet their pupils’ needs, and to associate with other schools if they like, for purchases or external contracts,” says Chassin. “Ideally, parents should also be able to move their children to a neighbouring school if they want to, with public funding ‘following’ the child.”
As it is, the existing school board lacks legitimacy in the public’s eye. In 2014, the school board elections only saw votes from 5.5 per cent of Quebecers. Moreover, the elected school board representatives aren’t truly elected at all – 40 per cent are appointed unopposed and without an election.
The report points out that freedom of choice for schools and parents leads to greater academic success. When school boards restrict this autonomy, the benefits are compromised.
“Certain school board expenditures make headlines because they are frivolous, but the real scandal is not financial,” says Chassin. “It resides in the fact that schools and students are being kept from realizing their full potential. The government is currently missing a golden opportunity to help schools by giving them more autonomy and accountability.”