Big changes coming in education, says MLA Coons

  • Feb. 24, 2006 9:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–North Coast MLA Gary Coons says the provincial government is planning some big changes to the education system, and he’s concerned that doing away with local school boards is one of them.
Mr. Coons said the deputy education minister recently held a “secret workshop” to discuss what the government is calling the “repurposing” of school boards.
According to documents he’s read, Mr. Coons said it looks like the province wants to give individual school principals control over budgets, instead of allowing a school board to make district-wide financial decisions.
Although Education Minister Shirley Bond told the Vancouver Sun Friday (Feb. 24) that eliminating school boards is “not in the mix”, Mr. Coons said that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes.
The education ministry will likely move to regionalize school boards, he said, so that the Haida Gwaii school district, for example, would be administered out of Prince George, like local health care.
“Sure, maybe she says school boards are still going to be there, but maybe they’ll be out of Prince George,” he said.
Mr. Coons said he is opposed to taking any power from school boards.
“School boards are locally elected people who have a real pulse on our communities,” he said.
Mr. Coons also pointed to this week’s speech from the throne, which included a commitment by Premier Gordon Campbell and Ms Bond to visit every school district in BC. The MLA said it was interesting to see that they announced they will be meeting with teachers, parents and students as they travel to each district – but not school trustees.
Mr. Coons also criticized the government’s budget, presented this week. “If you own a $750,000 house or you’re buying a $55,000 car or your kid’s in private school, you might think this budget is okay,” he said. “But it’s not meeting the needs of ordinary British Columbians.”
The budget ignores several key issues including child poverty, homelessness, and affordable university tuition, he said.
The budget also did not address teachers’ concerns about class size and composition and did not offer a long-term economic strategy for communities in transition, like those on the islands, he said.
“It was a pretty disappointing budget,” Mr. Coons said. “British Columbians expected more and deserved more.”