Quebec education minister hears concerns his bill will hurt community schools

Click to play video: 'School board hearings continue in Quebec City'
School board hearings continue in Quebec City
WATCH: The Quebec Government is hearing more opposition to its plan to abolish school boards. On Monday, five groups presented their briefs to the committee. As Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, some parents say they're concerned about their role in the proposed school service centres – Nov 11, 2019

Some parents say they worry their local neighbourhood school will suffer under reforms proposed by the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge heard more opposition Monday to the plan to abolish school boards, as national assembly public hearings continued.

READ MORE: Quebec plans to axe school boards but offers compromise to English institutions

Mothers Natalie Poirier and Patricia Clermont, who represent the movement, “je protège mon ecole publique” (I’m protecting my public school), were the first to testify Monday. They said they fear if Bill 40 — the government’s plan to replace school boards with service centres — is passed, elementary schools will start competing with each other for students, which will weaken neighbourhoods.

The bill will let parents decide where to send their kids, even if the school isn’t in the neighbourhood where they live.

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“It’s already the case right now, especially in high schools, parents will choose their school depending on the project, so imagine now doing it with primary schools,” she said.

“I think it’s kind of sad because it’s fun to see children outside, mingling altogether, going to the same school, walking together, taking their bikes, you know, getting the community together,” she added.

READ MORE: Bill 40 under fire as public hearings into Quebec’s education reform begin

Poirier and Clermont agree with opposition parties who say the minister is moving too fast with his reform.

“And I hope he will learn the lesson of last week of Simon Jolin-Barrette that when you rush something too quickly and you forget to make real consultation, well, that can backfire,” said Liberal MNA Marwah Rizqy.

After massive public backlash last week, Minister Jolin-Barrette was forced to backtrack on changes he proposed to a popular immigration program for international graduates. He brought those changes forward not by a law that is debated publicly in the National Assembly, but rather, a regulation that is decided in the minister’s office.

The Opposition Parti Québécois said they fear the education minister will try to do the same thing once he passes this school board reform bill.

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READ MORE: Francophones shouldn’t lose their right to vote in school board elections, argue English-language advocates

“He says any measure that could help to realize the aim of this bill could be taken by regulation, so this is quite worrisome,” said PQ MNA Véronique Hivon.

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