Coast Mountains School District pushes back against Bill 11

The board is joining other districts across B.C. in calling on the government to rescind recently-passed education omnibus legislation

The Coast Mountains School District board is joining other districts across the province in calling on the government to rescind recently-passed education omnibus legislation.

Bill 11, the Education Statutes Amendment Act, was introduced in the legislature in March by education minister Peter Fassbender. It details a wide-ranging overhaul to the provincial education system that includes changes to teacher professional development and an expanded ministry mandate. That expanded mandate gives the ministry more authority over district boards, allowing the province to override board decisions as well as designate specific service providers to boards for shared education services.

The ministry says the legislation will “help school districts reduce overhead costs, establish a modern framework for teacher professional development, and put a stronger focus on accountability for student outcomes.”

But teachers, parent advisory councils, and school boards have been crying foul – and the Coast Mountains board is the latest board to join in.

“As all of you know, since the Bill 11 was introduced, it is not in favour of anybody – it is undermining the trustees, it is undermining the education system,” said Kitimat trustee Raymond Raj at last night’s regular school board meeting. “When you talk to anybody, nobody is happy with Bill 11 – so why are you proceeding with it?”

Raj’s motion to tell the province to “rescind the bill, have consultation on all of the issues there, and then have a proper bill” passed with unanimous support from all of the trustees present. Terrace trustee Roger Leclerc was not present, nor was Kitimat trustee Margaret Warcup.

Board chair Art Erasmus said the board would word a letter to the ministry similar to those sent by other districts.

And Raj encouraged parents and parent advisory councils to write letters as well, noting the Kildala school parent advisory council in Kitimat sent a letter in April.

“Ask your parent advisory councils to write a letter to the minister. Right now the way it is going they don’t care about the trustees, they don’t care about the teachers, they don’t care about students,” said Raj. “But the parents hold the power. If all of the parents start writing letters and tell the government that this bill is no good, they might backtrack.”

The introduction of this bill was one of a number of major education reforms the government introduced to the surprise of trustees and the BC School Trustee Association (BCSTA) – something that was highlighted at a recent trustee association meeting Erasmus attended.

“Out of the whole trustee academy, the one thing that really stuck out for me was the three motions that dealt with the government going to the public with their issues without consulting the BCSTA,” said Erasmus. “The BCSTA had just signed a letter prior to that that the government would consult with them, and they haven’t done it.”