Monthly Archives: February 2013

These campaigns of misinformation must stop.

The CAQ put out yet another press release today, damning school boards in the province of Quebec.

CAQ spokesperson Nathalie Roy chastises the Minister of Education, Marie Malavoy, in the communiqué suggesting that the Minister is hiding behind school boards in order to affect a tax increase.   Ms Roy claims that school boards “have not shown the decency to publish a scenario where taxes are raised”.  Ms Malavoy suggests that these cuts can come from administrative services, but that would be our choice as school boards to make.

Words matter.  Facts matter.  And unfortunately, both Ms Roy and Ms Malavoy are the ones truly deceiving the Quebec taxpayers.

Our school board has yet to pass a resolution on where to assess the latest cuts, yes THE CUTS to the school board. So no, we have not yet published anything. Because a decision has not yet been reached.  Should the school board be tossing about scenarios that could apply? That are likely to never see the light of day? Responsible governance dictates that we should not.

Let’s take a moment to look at the facts here.  The issue at hand is the “reduction rate” applied to school taxes.  In our school board, we have over 130 municipalities, each with their very own “reduction rate”.  These rates range from as low as 8.83% (Village St Pierre) to as high as 49.71% (Labelle).  The “reduction rate” was originally introduced by the government a number of years ago, to help defray the massive increases taxpayers were seeing as municipal evaluations skyrocketed.  The actual formulae for the municipalities remain a mystery to me – it is said to be complex, and by the way, as an English school board, we have no decision making power anyway – this rate is in fact decided on by the Franco school boards.  (Isn’t that a nice little bonus for us English boards?)

This monstrosity is just a minor piece in what is the single most bloated bureaucratic waste of a tax system this world could ever imagine.

Theoretically, our school board should be taxing at $0.36/$100 evaluation in order to meet the “taxation envelope” that the Ministry allocates to us.

The law does not allow us to tax more than $0.35/$100, so with a total municipal evaluation of $8.8 billion, to get to the $32 million “envelope”, we would need to tax at $.3636/$100 – we are not allowed more than $0.35/$100, so we have to tax at that top end and the Ministry makes up the $1 million dollar balance that we are unable to collect to meet that “envelope” of $32 million.

Now – back to the “reduction rate”.  Ms. Malavoy has indicated that for the 2013/2014 year, 50% of the value of the reduction rate will be removed. That means the school board gets $3.5 million dollars less.  Now – the Minister has said that we can tax that amount by reducing the reduction rates by that same 50%, or that we can “find them in administration”, as long as it doesn’t come from services that directly affect students and learning.

Some questions:  Do you know what percentage of our school board’s budget is taken up by school board administration?  Under 4%.  Do you know what the average percentage is on the Franco side?  Around 7%.  Do you know what other social services allocate to their administrative costs?  Some are said to be higher than 10%.  And more.  At under 4% in our school board, we simply have no where else to cut.

Most recently, parents committees in the province have started a petition on the Quebec National Assembly website, demanding that the province invest in education.  The parents know that academic perseverance and success are crucial to the development of a healthy, committed and prosperous society; why doesn’t our Government reflect that in its investment in education?!

(Sign the petition yourself after clicking here.)

So – what do we do?  What choices do we have?  And when is it time to demand real leadership from both Ms. Malavoy and Ms. Roy?  When is it time to stand up and say, “NO.  THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.  We have no where else to cut, and it’s time we look at the bureaucracy behind all of this.”

I say that time is NOW.

Let’s talk about the number of bureaucrats employed by MELS.  Let’s look at their functions, and the actual value they deliver to our students.  Let’s examine how the bureaucracy created by MELS affects school board administration, our in-school administrators and our teachers.  Let’s look at the tax system – does it make any sense to be  taxing this way? Managing reduction rates, having duplications of taxation services throughout the province and then trying to balance it all out?

Why not a single line item on municipal taxes, the same for us all and collected by the municipal system already in place?

And while we are looking at tax rates, let’s finally address the absolute theft from English tax payers who are having to pay as much as 3, 4 or 5 times the school tax rate of their Franco neighbours, to get exactly the same level of funding for their English schools. This is outright financial discrimination against English taxpayers in Quebec – is there any justice at all in not addressing this right now?!

Ms. Roy – your focus is incorrect and your hubris has a rank smell to it.  Ms. Malavoy – your attempts to download cuts that shouldn’t be made to school boards and hence increase taxes on the taxpayers are both transparent and destructive to the future of this province.

As a taxpayer, I demand that both of you focus on the real problems in front of us, and that you direct our tax dollars into the future of this province by funding our school boards adequately such that they can deliver the high quality education they are certain to deliver.

Truly,

Steve

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Standardized testing. It’s just not good enough.

I am someone who likes measures. I like to set a goal, define what success will look like and then assess how well we did in reaching that goal, or seeing that success.  So when it comes to teaching, I want to see measurable results. Measurable failure even – something that can be measured so that it can be used as a model or supported and repaired.  Without assessment, how do we know how we’re doing?

The problem is that tests along are not real assessment. Look at the list that I took from an Edutopia post today:

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Edutopia has an introduction to “Comprehensive Assessment” video here.  It’s a good start for those of us looking to understand how assessment could, and should be used.  Standardized tests are simply not a good enough measure.

Truly,

Steve

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If we want the best, shouldn’t we at least try and offer the best?

“Interviewing departing teachers more purposefully would help us get a better understanding of why teachers are leaving the field in such high numbers. If we truly want to retain our teachers, we will need to offer not only higher salaries and other perks, but also improved working conditions.”

Read more in The Gazette

How much do we spend to graduate a teacher? And this, so that we can lose 40% of them before they have been on the job for five years?  Where is this society’s priority?

The first thing we really do need to know is exactly what Ms. Melnyk suggest we find out – why are they leaving?  We may think we know, but thorough exit interviews that have a common baseline will give us the real answers.

Some of the answers are likely money. Some are likely frustration with a system that is not changing at the rate society is changing.  Some no doubt relate to the frustrations from the perceived “low social status”.

If we as a society really care about education, we as a society need to value those people who teach our children.  Teaching has to become as sought after a career as it is in a Finland, or a Singapore.  We need to value it, we need to pay for it – society will reap the rewards for the investment.

What we’re doing right now is not working.  It’s about time we face that.

Truly,

Steve

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