Thursday, September 29, 2011

Does BCPSEA represent the interest of School Trustees?

School Trustees are elected by their local communities to run schools. Yet one aspect they no longer control locally is their negotiations with the biggest groups of employees, teachers. Instead, they are represented by a provincial bargaining agent.

The employer's group representing Trustees and Government, BCPSEA (BC Public School Employer's Association), represents an odd contradiction. On the one hand they represent local School Trustees. But on the other, their mandate is to standardize as much as possible.

BCPSEA wants a single standardized provincial collective agreement. They want all teachers in all Districts to be under the same terms and conditions of employment - everything from a standardized work year to standard salaries. They have repeatedly stated that their goal is "efficiency" and elimination of "duplication".

But the logical conclusion of this way of thinking is that we should not have School Boards either. Perhaps they are inefficient and cause duplication? Why have 60 Boards of Education, which employ hundreds of Trustees, if everything would be so much more "efficient" if administered provincially through the Ministry of Education?

This thinking is wrong.

First, School Boards and Trustees are about local democratic control of the school system. This is more important than "efficiency". Parents and the public want to have input into the operation of their local schools. And teachers want to negotiate standards specific to their schools and communities and educational programs.

Second, it is an illusion that bigger is cheaper and better.

When the Toronto District School Board was created through amalgamation, all of the anticipated "efficiencies" failed to come through. For example, when they closed the facilities plant on the west side of the city so that they would have only one, the result was that carpenters now spend much of their time in traffic crossing the city in travel. Salaries were leveled up across the city. Staff moved into a central office, but after the full amalgamation was complete, there were more staff, not fewer. Eventually, the Board reorganized into sections to more effectively serve such a large student population.

It is ironic that BCPSEA represents Trustees and Boards. In my mind they (BCPSEA) are part of a bigger push towards standardization and centralization and elimination of local democratic governance. They follow the same BC Liberal line of thinking that led to the amalgamation of health authorities and the "threats" of elimination of School Boards. Is this what School Trustees really want?


  1. I'm running for School Trustee in the Greater Victoria civic election on November 19. BCPSEA does not represent my views on public education. SC readers, check my Facebook campaign page: Diane McNally For School Trustee:

  2. Way to go Diane! I hope that all of your past colleagues and their families and friends offer their support in your campaign to be elected to the Board. We need more supportive people like you.