Another View: What to do with school boards?

Tom Fletcher is a legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press

B.C. Views

 

The saddest manifestation of British Columbia’s modern democracy has produced its judgment, with the election of school trustees for the next four years.

There are still independent, community-minded trustees, but mostly “boards of education” have become the neglected, exploited stepchild of B.C. politics.

Teacher union locals and CUPE-dominated “labour councils” organize candidate forums and ask most of the questions, often to former teachers holding and seeking school board seats. Unions finance the campaigns of those who pledge to act as a bullhorn for constant demands for more provincial money, and instruct their members to vote for what should be called the Conflict of Interest slate.

This has been going on for so long in B.C. it is seen as normal. Trustees who most loudly plump for their union masters tend to win, thanks to low turnout. The public mostly doesn’t give a damn, since school property tax authority was centralized in Victoria many years ago, largely because of this special interest pressure.

The classic case is in Coquitlam, where one could almost hear the theme from <I>The Godfather</I> as local CUPE boss Dave Ginter appeared before the board of education in February. He informed the elected trustees that their collective financial acumen wasn’t up to his standards and some of them would have to go this fall.

“Obviously, the chore I have is to find new trustees,” Ginter clarified in an interview with the <I>Tri-City News</I> as the union’s candidate selection machine stirred to life.

Ginter seems to have made them an offer they couldn’t refuse on Saturday, with formerly union-blessed trustees turfed out in favour of a new group.

Then there’s Vancouver Island, where the 1970s survived, at least until Saturday night. Cowichan school board got itself fired by the province in 2012 for refusing to submit a balanced budget. Two of the trustees who think the job is to flout the balanced budget rule and instead demand a “needs budget” ran again.

They were joined on a slate by two others who apparently still believe the answer to every problem is to shout for “more government funding.” They didn’t get in, as voters appear to have been unimpressed by seeing their school board replaced by a provincially-appointed manager for two years.

That brings up a modest proposal. How about an appointed trustee for each of the 60 school districts? School boards have lost authority over taxation, curriculum (another area of constant union social engineering pressure) and now labour relations. Do we really need them any more?

After the 2013 B.C. election, the Christy Clark government wasted no time taking control of union bargaining on behalf of school districts. Trustees were pushed out of the bargaining agency, no longer trusted to represent taxpayers for that duty either.

The puppet role of some school trustees was evident in the recent teacher strike. When the province opted to pay parents for the disruption, there was a chorus of protest from those supposedly elected to represent the interests of parents and taxpayers.

School tax rates are now set by cabinet order, and the B.C. Liberal government is considering a move to regulate local industrial taxes. (This would presumably be to keep union-influenced municipalities from trying to get too many golden eggs from those liquefied natural gas plants.)

Would Education Minister Peter Fassbender and his team continue their remake by amalgamating or eliminating school boards? Not likely.

With a rare teacher settlement in place, trustees will have less incentive to grandstand. And their meetings may become something more than union beef sessions.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press newspapers. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

Abstract Developments is donating $75,000 to support community programming at The Cridge Centre for the Family. (Courtesy of The Cridge Centre)
Victoria developer builds support for community programs

Abstract Developments donates $75,000 to The Cridge Centre for the Family

SD 62 (Sooke) has announced a COVID-19 exposure at David Cameron Elementary in Colwood. Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Black Press Media File).
COVID-19 exposure at Colwood’s David Cameron Elementary

Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read