What is the Role of School Boards?
The responsibilities and funding of school boards should continue to be gradually reduced.
The current trustee system has protected neither the public purse nor quality education. Over the years, the Ontario school boards have built up huge bureaucracies, constructed expensive buildings, and become remote from the communities they were designed to serve. In addition to spending far too much money, the school boards have reached the point where they may actually be hindering their students' progress. a researcher in B.C. found that the more money a school board has, the poorer its students' academic achievement is likely to be.
In Ontario, the most recent amalgamation made school boards even bigger and more remote from their schools and parents. at the same time, their authority is gradually being reduced as the provincial government centralizes decision-making and the school boards capitulate to the big unions. as a result of such things as the school boards' huge size, the government's tendency towards central planning, and union contracts, school boards' decision-making ability and usefulness have been further diminished.
The public sector lags behind the private sector in adopting the international model of combining centralization and decentralization to achieve measurable results. In such an arrangement, the central administration has authority over goals and evaluation, while giving up control over operational decisions. If Ontario were to adopt this structure, the province would be responsible for setting goals and overseeing testing, while the school staff would be free to use whatever methods and materials work best in the local situation to ensure that students achieve the required learning outcomes.
At present, most school boards are attempting to micromanage their schools, taking an interest in teaching methods and materials, salaries, staff, purchasing, professional development, and much more. an independent task force should be established to oversee the gradual reduction in the scope of boards' involvement in their schools' affairs. as each responsibility is shifted away from the boards, the task force should monitor the transfer process and evaluate how well the responsibility is being carried out.
Some of the responsibilities that might be shifted down to the schools include curriculum implementation and supervision; teacher evaluation; and the determination of salary levels within a framework of provincial negotiations and guidelines. Responsibilities that might be shifted up to the province include insurance and legal support; health and safety regulation; teacher salary frameworks; and teacher in-service for curriculum content changes. Responsibilities that might be shifted to four or five regional offices include: school allocation; major repairs and construction; transportation; and school inspection.
By means of this gradual divestment of responsibility, the boards will eventually be stripped down to core responsibilities. When this point is reached, it will be possible to make a determination as to the long-term viability of school boards.
Reprinted with the permission of the Society for Quality Education.
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