Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dismissal of Vancouver School Board could set the tone on larger education issues for Spring election

Education Minister Mike Bernier
announced the dismissal of the
Vancouver School Board on Monday
Monday's announcement by Minister of Education Mike Bernier dismissing the Vancouver School Board for failing to comply with the School Act, has sent a bit of seismic shock through the provincial education system.

Though as many political observers have noted in the last twenty four hours, the move to finally address the issues coming out of Vancouver probably should not be considered much of a surprise.

For a number of years now, while other School Districts across the province have made hard decisions at the local level and faced the challenges of how to allocate the funding provided by the Province, the VSB at times has appeared to be running a parallel Ministry of Education.

For the most part the VSB has been taking on the province at every turn and on every topic, challenging the Premier and the Ministry on any number of issues, all while the process of delivering education in the city became the domain of partisan bickering.

And while few may argue that there is a need to review the level of funding that the School Districts in British Columbia receive and how it is spent at the local level, the seemingly dysfunctional nature of the Vancouver board is something that many other communities were watching with a mixture of shock and maybe for some, just a little bit of envy.

While smaller communities addressed their budget issues and followed the letter of provincial law to deliver balanced budgets, the VSB would drag the process out for as long as possible, making education at times a rancorous political battle at the local level, as opposed to the presumed goal towards the delivery of education to the largest population base in the province.

“The Vancouver school board has been dismissed for failing to comply with the School Act which required the board to adopt a balanced budget by June 30, 2016. Dianne Turner has been appointed as official trustee for the district.  ... This step has been taken despite the possibility that the board may now be willing to pass a balanced budget. It is impossible to have any confidence that a potential last-minute change of position on the district budget signals a fundamental change in the attitude which has so far led the board to refuse to follow the law ... What we have witnessed from the Vancouver school board is a misplaced focus on political tactics rather than responsible stewardship." -- Part of a statement from Education Minister Mike Bernier on Monday, following the dismissal of the Vancouver School Board

By finally taking action on the Vancouver Board's inability to find a way to follow the same guidelines as other School Districts, the Liberal government was perhaps sending a message to those other School Districts that all Boards are equal and that individual boards won't be allowed to flaunt the rules that others must follow.

The move also perhaps nips in the bud any percolating ideas that other School District Boards across BC  may have had about following the lead of the Vancouver Board, a recipe that the Province no doubt feared would lead to anarchy for public education.

The Education Minister, having finally brought the British Columbia government's hammer down just hours before the Vancouver Board was to hold a meeting to deliver its budget verdict, has set in motion what should be a fascinating discussion not only on the delivery of education, but how the School Boards across the province approach their duties and obligations to the parents and students that they serve.

To handle the day to day business of the VSB, the Government has appointed Dianne Turner to act as official trustee for the Vancouver Board for a period of one year, with an option to extend that mandate, a decision which has already made for a much debate on what the Provincial government's future ambitions towards education may be and what place elected School Boards will have with them.

BCTF President Glen Hansman issued a media release yesterday that identified the issues that the teacher's federation believes are key to the current controversy found in Vancouver and elsewhere in the province.

As for the view of the developments from Vancouver, the Chair of the Vancouver School Board Mike Lomardi, who represents Vision Vancouver on the Board, issued his own statement on behalf of the dismissed members, which leaves no doubt as to where they (or at least those that belong to Vision Vancouver) are putting the blame related to Monday's developments.

“Education Minister Mike Bernier’s outrageous political decision to unilaterally fire the democratically elected Vancouver School Board is the wrong decision for kids, for parents, and for communities. The people of Vancouver elected trustees to stand up for public education, not to do the provincial government’s dirty work of closing schools, cutting programs, and selling off public assets address a budget shortfall of their own making."

Monday's announcement by the government comes with the Legislature in the midst of an indefinite break from its duties, with the Liberals having suspended the start of the Fall Session, with no timeline noted as to when MLA's will return to the Legislature chamber.

The decision to dismiss the Vancouver Board, along with the suspension of the Legislature for the fall, is making it a pretty rough patch for British Columbians when it comes to the concept of elected representation and the process of debate on government issues.

Regardless of the drama in Vancouver, education was probably already destined to be a top election issue as we head towards May of 2017. The moves from Monday  probably now guarantee that the issue climbs the list of topics on the agenda as the spring election draws near.

The latest developments now provide the opportunity for the province's main political parties to outline their vision for education and what role local Boards will have in the future. How each party views education and where they stand when it comes to local oversight of it, could make for a key element of engagement for the campaign ahead.

The dismissal of the VSB has provided for a range of commentary on the nature of Education in the province and the never ending political battles that seem to surround it.

Some of the findings can be found below:

Education Minister Mike Bernier fires Vancouver School Board
Fired Vancouver school board chair Mike Lombardi accuses education minister of provincial takeover
Dismissed education trustee Penny Noble says province made right decision to fire Vancouver School Board
The B.C. government was right to fire the Vancouver School Board
Conflict hits breaking point as B.C. fires Vancouver School Board trustees
Former Vancouver School Board chair Mike Lombardi calls firing 'outrageous'
'Devastating' if Provincial Trustee Closes Schools, Critics Say after VSB Firing
The First Time Victoria Fired the Vancouver School Board
Vancouver School Board fired by B.C. education minister
Vancouver School Board to approve budget after months of delay, controversy
Bernier's pre-emptive strike abruptly ends VSB battle
B.C. education Minister Bernier fires Vancouver School Board
Vancouver's rebel school trustees get their wish martyrdom for the cause
Bringing hammer down on Vancouver School Board was clearly orchestrated
Education Minister fires Vancouver School Board
B.C.'s education minister fires Vancouver School Board
The politics got into it in the public realm: former VSB Vision Trustee
The Vancouver School Board has been Fired

We will track the developments as they come along in the day, weeks and months ahead from an archive page we've created for the topic, you can access those notes here.

More items related to provincial issues can be found on our political portal Darcy McGee.

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