Education: troubling grey areas in Legault’s speech

17 December 2018

Our Premier promises to make education his top priority, but is this really the case?

François Legault promises to make education his top priority, but is this really the case?

After all the damage budget cuts have inflicted on our public education system in recent years, our new Premier will now deprive school boards of $700 million in revenue by lowering school taxes.  Is this how he thinks he can create the conditions that will put Quebec schools back on track?

Will this government adjust for this shortfall with more funding to make up for the loss of revenue? Nothing is certain yet.

School boards are essential

School taxes alone account for 17.8% of school board revenues.  This money is needed for student services, administrative and manual support, and other expenses.

If the Premier wants play Santa Claus and hand out gifts, he should pay for them himself.  Especially since François Legault justifies the imposition of a single school tax rate by saying he wants to correct an injustice.  He should not correct one injustice by creating another, even more serious, one.

School boards accomplish very important tasks.  They decentralize some services while centralizing others to eliminate the need for individual establishments (preschool, primary, secondary, adult education, etc.) to provide them.    We already have super school secretaries who greet everyone who enters the school, handle all the calls, see to the replacement of absent teachers, deal with the management of files, budgets and school accounts, in addition to addressing the needs of students, teachers, professionals, parents and administrators.

They play a vital role, but they need the school board’s help with payroll management, budget verification and to answer all the questions they are asked.  The school secretary is at the center of all these interactions.  The Premier says he wants to “give back” power to the schools, but a lot of the power is already there.  Decentralization has been taking place for a long time in our schools.

Schools have “limits” 

It’s all well and good to want to “give back” power to the schools, but smaller schools rarely have the budget to provide special education technicians or tutoring services because the funding they receive is based on the number of students enrolled in the school.  Fewer students means less available hours of complementary services.  School boards compensate for these inequities by giving them more hours than they would otherwise be entitled to.

Another matter of concern in François Legault’s speech is the fact that not once does he mention school support staff.  He speaks about teachers and professionals but ignores our presence. Yet here we are: 80,918 school support staff representing 39% of all personnel working in school boards.  WE are also education!

Workers who want to be heard

He tries to reassure us but instead the Premier manages to worry us even more.  Before he changes the way things are done, it seems to me that school support staff should be consulted along with everyone else.

Éric Pronovost, FPSS-CSQ President