I have become more selective in what I read about public education lately and I also pay less attention to the issues now that my own children are out of the K – 12 system.  I spent years trying to be informed of the issues and advocating where I could.  I didn’t always feel effective then, but even more so now.  When I was more involved in education advocacy, I would always wish that the general public would also keep informed and care about education, but I get now how easy it is to drift from the issues and feel powerless to make a difference.

As I stated to Doug Peterson, I only read this article about fixing public education in Ontario because he wrote a response to it on his blog, here.  The author of the article is a former president of an education advocacy organization.  She discusses 7 areas to address in order to “fix” public education in Ontario, and claims that 6 out of the 7 recommendations will save money.  She also states in the article’s subtitle, “It won’t be easy to implement any of these recommendations. The educational establishment will fight every step of the way.”

I thought Doug did well in addressing each of the 7 areas with his insights and thoughts (Non-Government Tuition Subsidies; Teacher Training; Curriculum; Textbooks; School Boards: Ont. College of Teachers; Provincial Testing).  I am only going to share some thoughts on one area/recommendation.

Given that I have thought and written a fair bit about school boards, that section jumped out at me. From the article,

The school board trustees, who theoretically represent the voters, are basically powerless: I have yet to hear of a parent who successfully sought help from his elected trustee. The trustees’ representational responsibilities would be better relocated to democratically-elected and influential school councils in each school.”

and with that,

Recommendation #5: Abolish the school boards”

Doug states a good case in his post,

This has long been a controversial issue but the fact that school districts exist ensure that local priorities can be addressed.  The notion of a High School Major is a perfect example.  The careful design plays to the importance of certain fields to the local community.  What works in a downtown community may not be appropriate to a rural location.  Having said that, within a community, there can be so much duplication of services with four school districts in operation.  Since they all teach in Ontario, there may well be significant savings by rethinking this way of organization and addressing the duplication of efforts.”

My thoughts:

As a parent, I received good help from some elected trustees — others, not so much.  Trustees have their limitations in power too.  Am I the only one who “successfully sought help”.  As for school councils being the better representational structure because they are “democratically elected and influential”, when has that been the case in any consistent and supported way across the entire province? (A post I wrote about representation here) I highly doubt that the abolishment of school boards would lead directly to improved functioning, representation, or influence of school councils.  Careful what you wish for?  What do others think?

I agree, the education system is hard to change.  There is also much disagreement on what change should look like.  I see the comments and exchanges are adding up on the original article though.  When I skimmed, most were about public vs. private schools.  Opinions are abundant, but no straight path to change.  I wonder if big shifts will occur anytime soon in Ontario.

Here is a podcast I hope to listen to soon, but if anyone else would like to beat me to it:

When Public Isn’t Public: Education in Alberta