LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thoughts on school board elections
On Nov. 3, 2024, the English community will have the opportunity to vote for school commissioners to “manage and control” our public school system.
Traditionally the turnout is quite low. That’s why during election time, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) resurrects ideas in the hope of increasing voter turnout.
Consider the remarks in the Montreal Gazette on Jan. 20 by QESBA president Joe Ortona, who is also chair of the English Montreal School Board.
He said more should be done to boost voter turnout by “holding school elections in conjunction with municipal ones.” He blames the government for not helping out.
The idea of twinning elections was first proposed by Liberal Education Minister Michelle Courchesne in her school board reform Bill 88, but she dropped the idea due to QESBA’s vocal reaction. They said it would be a “logistical nightmare … disastrous for school board democracy.”
On Jan. 23, Ortona told CJAD host David Heurtel that QESBA has suggested mail-in ballots to increase voter participation but received “no co-operation” from the government in the past 10 years.
The thought of mail-in voting has been rejected by many due to its lack of confidentiality. … On Jan. 27, Le Devoir published a letter titled: “Avec le vote en ligne, le retour du télégraphe” (With online voting, the return of the telegraph). On Jan. 24, the paper ran a letter: “Voter dans son salon” (Vote in your living room). Both letters criticized the idea, stating that it would compromise the sanctity of the secret ballot.
School board elections have been a problem for years. I ran for chair of the Lester B. Pearson board twice. The system is a mess. Recall the law calls for four-year mandates, yet we ended up having consecutive seven-year mandates from 2007 to 2014 and then from 2014 to 2021.
I believe the rate of voter participation does not have any impact on student achievement. We should focus on providing students with the necessary resources and support to shine in their studies, regardless of external factors such as voter turnout.