BCSTA Letter regarding Bill’s 20, 21 and 22

The BC School Trustee’s Association has written a letter regarding the recent education legislation. The following section relates to the School Fees issue and the role of School Planning Councils.

While we are also pleased that fees can be collected for specialty academies, we are concerned that including a requirement of School Planning Council approval for these fees muddies the water of accountability. SPCs have no direct accountability to the public {italics mine}, and continue to experience challenges in representation and decision-making. It is unclear how SPCs would reach democratically representative and locally accountable decisions in these matters. SPC membership can change significantly from year to year based on the availability and willingness of the representatives. It could also potentially alter the composition and focus of SPCs by encouraging individuals for or against a specialty academy to seek membership, rather than those interested in focusing on the broader improvement goals of the school.

We also have concerns about non-elected individuals making decisions that affect the allocation of public funds, since it is not just additional fees, but also district operating funds, that run specialty academies. This provision could also result in funding instability to specialty academies and jeopardize their ability to attract students.
As well, there are potential complications for specialty academies that are actually district programs but are located in a single school. The ability for a single SPC to not approve funding for a program at a particular school narrows a board’s ability to provide specialty academies to students throughout the district.

We urge you to replace the provision for School Planning Council approval of the establishment of specialty academy fees with a provision that provides SPCs with the opportunity for input.