Column: Happy April Fool’s Day

Maybe most days are fools’ days. There are so many weird and foolish things going on in our country.

Maybe most days are fools’ days. There are so many weird and foolish things going on in our country — in the world actually — one has to wonder.

Last week I complained that underfunding was diminishing the effectiveness of locally-elected school boards. Little did I know there was more to come. The province has now introduced legislation giving itself considerable control over trustees and teachers. What’s going on?

In Saturday’s Vancouver Sun, Daphne Bramham described this as a “massive restructuring” of the public education system. She said the Liberal government seems intent on impoverishing the province’s public schools. It’s hard to know what else to think. The government has had a vendetta against teachers and now it’s targeted trustees. Is Education Minister Peter Fassbender saying he knows how to spend money better than they do, that Big Brother knows best?

The question is, why now? Last year the Conference Board of Canada released its first report card on education and ranked BC the No. 1 province in Canada on education and skills. We placed third on the world scale behind Japan and Finland, the countries used as benchmark comparisons for the study. If our existing system did that well in spite of underfunding, what heights could it reach with a little encouragement?

School boards have been around forever, maybe they have outlived their usefulness, but is there any hard evidence to show that a centralized authority can provide better services than a local one? Less costly maybe, but better quality? For instance, do Williams Lake area citizens get better service from the regional Interior Health Authority that we used to get from local health boards?

If Mr. Fassbender thinks school trustees aren’t up to the job, fine, but it’s all about money, not the students’ education. Picking away at the system is a painful and divisive way to solve problems, and of course, no one is asking the parents and/or taxpayers what they think about it. Maybe no one cares.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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