A controversial bill that is set to reform the Nova Scotia education system passed through the Nova Scotia legislature on Thursday evening.
Bill 72, or the Education Reform Act must now receive Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor, Arthur J. LeBlanc, before becoming law.
The final vote was 25-21 with all Liberal MLAs who were present voting yes on the bill while all MLAs from the Nova Scotia NDP and the Tories who were present voted no.
The bill will largely implement reforms recommended in a recent report by education consultant Avis Glaze. The Glaze Report was commissioned by the Liberal government in October and released in January.
Among other things, the legislation will eliminate all of the province’s seven English language school boards while revamping the membership of the 9,600-member Nova Scotia Teachers Union to remove about 1,000 principals, vice-principals and senior supervisors.
This means principals and vice-principals will no longer be direct members of the teachers union but will maintain an affiliation at least until 2019.
Under the legislation, the Acadian school board would remain in place, while the other boards would be replaced by a new Provincial Advisory Council of Education composed of 15 members representing all regions of the province.
School board offices would remain in place, but they would become regional education centres that would continue to make regional and local decisions, although the superintendents would report to the deputy minister of education. There would also be local advisory councils under the proposed model.
The province says a one-time payout of $2.4 million will be paid this year to cover elected members’ stipends to the end of their term in October 2020.
Premier Stephen McNeil says he believes the changes will give communities a stronger voice because they will get direct access to the minister.
WATCH: Nova Scotia moves ahead with education overhaul, makes some concessions to union
The passage through the legislature follows a contentious and vocal response from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU).
At one point, the union had even voted affirmatively to take illegal job action in the face of what they saw as “punishing” legislation.
After meetings with McNeil, NSTU President Liette Doucet told reporters they will not be pursuing job action in response to the legislation, following “numerous compromises by the McNeil government.”
NDP education critic Claudia Chender calls the notion “absurd” and says the concerns of parents will end up falling to members of the legislature.
The legislature is set to meet again on Friday morning at 9 a.m.