Vancouver Sun Letter to the Editor (Sat. March 28): TransLink, school boards are Victoria’s ‘whipping boys’
Author: Bill Bruneau
There’s a strange parallel between the way we administer public transit in the Lower Mainland and the way we govern public education.
In transit, as in education, government has been “downloading” responsibility, but not providing financial or legal powers to act on that responsibility. It’s a recipe for disaster.
In transit, we have the Mayors’ Council, or Transit Board. Their job is to get people from point A to point B at reasonable cost. Alas, they have few ways to finance that work. Yet if there are too few buses, who do we blame? TransLink of course.
The government of B.C. should be on the hook, but Victoria has set things up so we’ll blame the wrong board, the wrong level of government, and the wrong people. The same could be said of school boards.
There’s extensive legislation requiring school boards to provide first-rate education in every subject in the provincial curriculum to all, including kids with learning disabilities, kids who know little English, kids who arrive at school hungry every day. Funding is under provincial control, as it has been since 1988. So is the basic curriculum. So are labour costs. If anything goes wrong at the local level, do we blame the province? No, we blame the school board.
In the Middle Ages, monarchs hired whipping boys. These unfortunates were flogged when something went wrong at court: if the stew was too salty, or an aristocrat did something that made the king unhappy, the whipping boy was tied to a wooden pole and flogged, just to make a point.
That’s the situation with local school boards. Local boards are filled with whipping boys and whipping girls. Maybe it was once amusing to watch this system at work. It is nowhere near as funny in the 21st century.
Surely it is time to reform the governance of transit, education, and municipal affairs. How about giving a share of income taxes directly to local government in education, transit, and social services? If not, why not?
Welcome to the PENS Blog on public education! Our bloggers include parents, teachers, education researchers, and other strong supporters of public education in BC and in Canada. Taking the lead is Bill Bruneau, Professor Emeritus UBC, ex-Vancouver School Board trustee, ex-President of his faculty association, and ex-president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.