Provincial politicians like school boards.
When popular decisions are made, like opening new schools or announcing new funding, the provincial government takes the credit.
When unpopular decisions need to be made, like closing schools or cancelling programs, then the provincial politicians are more than happy to let the school board trustees take the blame.
As was demonstrated yesterday, provincial politicians also like school boards because they can tell them what to do. When the Calgary Board of Education voted to reject the new province-wide collective agreement negotiated by the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Education Minister Jeff Johnson tabled a bill in the Assembly to force the agreement on all school boards in the province (Premier Alison Redford was unsurprisingly absent during the resulting commotion).
It is important to note that the vast majority of school boards and Locals representing the Alberta Teachers’ Association voted to approve the agreement. Minister Johnson’s bill simply forces the agreement on the few that refused, which happen to include Calgary, the largest school board in Alberta.
Normally, the Calgary Board of Education would have had the opportunity to sit down with the ATA and negotiate a separate local agreement. This is how, until very recently, teachers’ contracts were negotiated.
As the provincial government tightens its grip on the reins of locally elected school boards, locally negotiated teachers’ contracts may become a thing of the past, as could school boards if they ever become inconvenient for their masters in the provincial government.
By my count, five of the 87 members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly previously served as school board trustees: Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Maureen Kubinec, Calgary-Klein MLA Kyle Fawcett, and Edmonton-Decore MLA Janice Sarich, as well as Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and PC MLA Teresa Woo-Paw, who served on the ill-fated Calgary Board of Education from 1998 until the dysfunctional board was fired by the provincial government in 1999.