The Quebec government’s plan to abolish school boards and turn them into service centres does a disservice to teachers, the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) argued Tuesday.
The organization, which oversees nine unions and represents more than 45,000 teachers in Quebec, had some harsh words for Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, a former teacher.
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With the tabling of Bill 40, Roberge has “insulted” his former colleagues and “diminished” the teaching profession, argued FAE president Sylvain Mallette, who said he is offended that teachers were not consulted.
“You know, power breeds arrogance, and arrogance is how governments lose, and it particularly disturbed me, shocked me,” Mallette said.
“As a former colleague… he has disappointed teachers, but he also shocked them. We thought that, for once, an education minister who knows the reality of the classroom, who knows what conditions we often have to work in, we expected him to listen to us. He chose to listen to other groups, so he will have to answer for those choices in a parliamentary committee.”
Bill 40 aims to modernize the school governance structure, according to the government, in addition to recognizing the expertise of teachers, while promoting ongoing training.
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Mallette said he finds it “arrogant” that the minister seems to want to introduce sanctions to punish teachers who refuse to participate in mandatory continuing education.
He argues that it is as if Roberge believes teachers “do not have the skills to do their work.” He said he worries that teachers won’t be well represented in the governing boards, and will thus come out the losers of the reform.
The FAE also disputes the minister’s claim that abolishing school boards in favour of service centres would generate savings that could be used to hire 160 new professionals.
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If that’s the case, it would be the equivalent of only one hour a week per establishment more in professional services, Mallette noted.
The FAE says it expects the government to “fundamentally change” Bill 40.