Are local school boards really necessary?

Here is an interesting article by Eastern New Mexico academic Michael Shaughnessy. Although it is posted in Education News, a U.S. aggregator, it is relevant information for Education Departments in all Canadian provinces and territories who have local school boards and elected trustees. 

The piece starts:

The topic of education governance is becoming a major strand of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s work. That’s because we see so many promising reforms crash upon its shores. Want to equalize funding? Expand school choice? Encourage online learning? Our current governance system—and especially our tradition of “local control”—makes all of this very difficult. We are launching a new three-year initiative, in partnership with the Center for American Progress, to put the issue of governance in the center of the education reform conversation. This panel was one of our first efforts on that front.”

Commentary: I have not done research lately on all ten Canadian provinces and territorities to learn which jurisdictions no longer have the school board structure, apart from New Brunswick, who did away with local school boards in 1996.

However, I can certainly see the value of doing so, quite apart from the funding it would save. In my opinion, the problem is political. Trustees tend to get too close to both senior board administration and teachers’ unions officials. As a result, particulary in small communities where trustees may be negotiating with relatives, it is very hard for them to make the kind of accountable decisions their voters expect. Of course, the argument can be made that without trustees the public has no say at all. Well, actually they do — through their provincial or territorial elected members of parliament.

Ottawa-Carleton school board to ask if students are gay?

Why on earth is the Ottawa-Carleton Public School Board conducting a census about employment, religious affiliation and sexual orientation? I thought that was why Statistics Canada needed to maintain the mandatory long form census. I mean, can’t Ottawa-Carleton Board officials simply access general demographic data already available at StatsCan?  They certainly don’t need sexual orientation information to develop a health curriculum — given that is what the Ontario Ministry of Education does for them.

There are apparently two separate surveys. For students in JK to Grade 6, parents are being asked to complete the survey — a survey that includes asking whether or not they (the parents) are employed and their level of education. The second survey is for students in Grades 7 to 12 to complete themselves and includes asking them their sexual orientation.  As Matthew Pearson of the Ottawa Citizen writes (H/T Simeon/Sam Drakich):

“Both surveys touch on a wide range of issues, including academic abilities, bullying, extracurricular activities, cultural backgrounds and language, and religious affiliation. They ask respondents to identify the adult caregivers students live with most of the time, and provide a number of possible responses, including two fathers, two mothers and half the time each with mother and father.”

“Not surprisingly, the survey for older students includes questions about plans after high school. But it also asks about gender — and includes “transgender” as one possible response — and sexual orientation. Students are asked to identify their sexual orientation from a range of possible options, one of which is “prefer not to disclose.”

Prefer not to disclose? Might I suggest another possible option? NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!