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All schools must have school councils to provide advice on an array of issues, including the local school year calendar, school budget priorities, and the selection of the principal.
ETFO believes that parents need opportunities for meaningful involvement in their children's school and that school councils provide one vehicle for greater involvement.
To make school councils viable, the government should be designating specific resources for training and support to school councils. School boards, for example, do not have the resources to provide outreach to parents and guardians who traditionally are under-represented on school councils and parent associations.
If the objective is to enhance student learning, then the government should be focusing on other strategies which have a proven record of helping parents to assist their children learn.
Ministry of Education Support for School Councils and Parental Involvement
In late 2006, the Ontario government announced school councils would receive funding for efforts to outreach to the broader parent community and foster greater participation by parents on school councils, particularly on the part of parents from traditionally under-represented groups.
The Ministry has established a Parent Engagement Office to support parental involvement in schools. The Ministry is replacing the Ontario Parent Council, an appointed body, with a new Provincial Parent Board of representatives elected by parents on a regional basis.
Role of School Councils
The school council regulation states that the purpose of school councils is, “through the active participation of parents, to improve pupil achievement and to enhance the accountability of the education system to parents.” According to the regulation, school boards are required to solicit the views of parent councils on the issues that relate to pupil achievement and accountability to parents, including:
School Board Accountability
The regulation stipulates that school boards must consider each school council recommendation and report back on any action taken.
Membership of School Councils
School councils for elementary schools shall consist of parents, the school principal, a teacher representative, a non-teaching staff representative, and at least one community member. The principal, in consultation with the school council, may appoint a student. The principal can designate his or her position on the council to the vice-principal.
The school council can adopt by-laws that govern the number of parents and that extend the number of community members. Parents must constitute a majority. Community members are appointed by the other members of the council.
The regulation prevents school board employees from seeking election as parent members in schools where they teach. This excludes a number of teachers and other school board employees from participating in their children’s school, particularly those in single-school and inner-city communities. There is no evidence employees dominate school councils. It is ETFO’s position that this regulation is discriminatory and anti-democratic.
In other cases, school board employees may only seek election to school councils if they take “reasonable steps” to inform those eligible to vote of their employment status.
School council elections should occur during the first 30 days of the school year on a date decided by the school board. The principal must give written notice of the date to parents.
The regulation gives the Ministry of Education the authority to collect school council members’ mailing addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses “for the purpose of consulting and communicating directly” with them.
The minister of education is required to report annually to school council members on education matters. The Ministry of Education may make other reports.
School Council Accountability
School councils are required to consult with parents about matters under consideration by the council, and provide an annual report on their activities to their principal and the school board.