OPINION: Should we merge school boards?

By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Should we merge school boards?

News broke just before the long weekend that the Ford government is looking to merge certain regional school boards.

There have not been any specifics that have been announced yet, as the plan hasn’t been officially announced, it was leaked to the media.

I think this is an interesting idea that should at least be considered. Cornwall and SD&G has four school boards serving the region. There’s the English public school board, English Catholic and their French counterparts.I think that if reducing the number of school boards serving this area is to be considered, we should have a good picture of where we stand now.

For comparison sake, the largest school board in the province is the Toronto District School board with nearly 250,000 students in 582 schools.

As of now, each of the four school boards in our area range from being mid-sized to large, with the biggest being the English Public Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) with 78 schools spread out across 12,000 km. The French public board, CEPEO, has 43 schools, the English Catholic board CBSDEO has 42 schools and 13,000 students and the French Catholic board is the smallest with 28 schools and 10,000 students.

The next thing that should be looked at before any move is made to merge the boards would be the quality of education. The Fraser Institute releases an annual ranking of Ontario schools based on their standardized test scores.

For the year 2019, Char-Lan topped the UCDSB with it’s score, and overall, it was ranked 104 out of 740 schools included in the report. For the CDSBEO, their best school was Holy Trinity, which ranked 187.

Now, I think we should also consider what would be lost if school boards were merged or eliminated. If, for example, all four school boards were amalgamated, I do think something would be lost for our French community. I feel that there should always be a separate school board for native French speakers. Eastern Ontario has a sizeable French community, and since French is an official language at the federal level, they should be allowed go to school in their native language.

My feelings for merging Catholic and public schools are different however. I think that what Catholic schools, and public schools offer can be provided by one board, without any loss of curriculum. I have no problem with a school board offering religion courses for families who want to take them, and if there are enough students who want to be in a Catholic education stream, then perhaps that could be offered.

What parents would really lose by the amalgamation of the boards is choice. Two years ago, when the UCDSB was considering closing schools across their region, some parents protested and pulled their children out of the school board all together and moved them into CDSBEO schools. This is the real thing that would be lost if school boards are merged. Parents and students would have no other choice but to buy in to one school board whether they liked them or not and I am not convinced that this is worth the savings of a few administrator’s salaries.

What do you think readers? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nicholas.seebruch@tc.tc

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