School is back in session and school trustee elections are over

What to do with school boards?

Trustees are no longer trusted with labour relations, and haven't had taxation authority for years. Do we still need them?

VICTORIA – 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 The Godfather 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 Tri-City News 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

 

Just Posted

River Monsters attract nearly 300 swimmers to their two-day meet

This was the third year for the now-annual event

PHOTOS: Sasquatch Days about ‘being proud of being Sts’ailes’

The joint event between Harrison and Sts’ailes returned to the village for its eighth year

‘This was my baby’: Music teacher to retire after 29 years at Kent Elementary

Brenda Di Rezze will be saying goodbye to her music room at the end of this school year

New Farmer’s Market coming to downtown Hope

Markets will be hosted every Friday on 3rd Avenue

SD78 growth plan to focus on inclusive learning, reading

Data collection and collaboration will help schools meet goals, superintendent says

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read