Can Quebec school board elections be saved? Should they be?

WATCH: Quebec community leaders are coming together to try and save the province’s school board elections. As Gloria Henriquez reports, a special panel has been created to try to make the system more efficient.

MONTREAL — A new committee of volunteers has come together to try and salvage Quebec’s school board elections.

The Election System Study Panel will look into creating a more effective school board elections system.

The panel is headed by Marlene Jennings, a veteran lawyer and politician.

“Mr. Blais has challenged our community to come up with options and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Jennings.

READ MOREEnglish school boards ‘reservedly hopeful’ after meeting education minister

Education minister François Blais announced at the end of May, he plans to eliminate school board elections.

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Jennings, a veteran lawyer and politician, said she believes this could infringe on the community’s rights.

“We’re looking at the Constitutional guarantee to control and protect and manage our education,” she said.

“We want to look at all the electoral systems that exist and whether or not they meet this constitutional requirement.”

READ MORENo more school board elections, says Blais

But the education minister insisted school board elections are not the right avenue.

“The current model is not up to our expectations.”

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“We want a new model that will ensure a local and regional representation of our schools’ administration,” said the minister’s spokesperson, Julie White, in an email to Global News.

Although the number of electors casting votes for English school boards has steadily increased, last fall’s election turnout only reached 20 per cent.

Which begs the question — how important are they?

Do school board elections matter?

Rhonda Boucher, the vice-president of the English Parents Committee, said she thinks school board elections are vital.

“They’re important for parents to have a voice and have structure within our school boards,” she said.

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“We need that structure to make sure our kids and schools are taken care of.”

READ MOREMontreal-area English school board election results

Some school board officials said they agree.

“We’re going to lose our homogeneity, and that means what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. One size fits all,” said Suanne Stein Day, chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

“This is not the case in our school boards.”

Others said they think school board elections are important to keep school boards in Quebec’s educational system in order to help maintain the rights of anglophone communities.

“Our public school network is the only system that is governed by ourselves entirely,” noted Stephen Burke, the acting president for the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).

“If we lose that, I think we’re losing something very big.” 

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Parents are invited to send in their suggestions to the panel.

There will soon be an announcement to indicate where and how they can participate.

The committee plans to complete its work in September.

Members are hoping to meet with the education minister before his government introduces legislation that could see school board commissioners replaced by next summer.

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