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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 1, September 2007

Bill 22

Education Statutes’ Amendment Act

By Diane MacDonald

Identification numbers

Bill 22 amends the School Act to expand the category of students that the ministry may provide with personal education numbers (identification numbers). For example, it adds First Nations to the definitional section, so that schools operated by First Nations educational institution are included. Bill 22 also expands the use of personal educational numbers, including their use in research and statistical analysis. The legislation makes it mandatory for boards to establish a code of conduct for its students and requires that these codes comply with provincial standards established by the minister. Now, those standards are not yet established but the minister may make orders to establish those standards in the future.

School district business companies

Bill 22 has many amendments designed to monitor and control the conduct of school business companies, and I’ll provide some examples, although not all of them, as it just goes into detail about the types of provisions that govern companies.

Section 9 provides that the majority of directors of a company that is regulated under the School Act must be at arm’s length from the board.

Section 11 adds provisions ensuring an annual general meeting of a company, provisions requiring proper notice of the meeting, and provisions requiring that annual general meetings be held in public so companies can no longer have such meetings behind closed doors. Consideration of the annual report and financial statements, the appointment of directors, and the appointment of the auditor, must also be done in public. The section also has requirements with respect to recording proceedings of a company’s meeting, and making minutes available for inspection.

Section 11 permits the chair of a meeting, or a majority of trustees at the company meeting, to exclude individuals for improper conduct, and it provides that a person who disturbs, interrupts or disrupts the proceedings of a meeting, commits an offence. So even though the meetings are public, the company has the ability to exclude members of the public.

Private school fee reimbursement

Bill 22 also provides for the reimbursement of some private school fees, allowing private schools to enter into the public school system. It does this by having the minister designate certain educational activities as eligible allowing for expenses incurred for instruction, examination, or certification in those educational activities to be reimbursed.

Section 21 specifically authorizes the minister to establish the amount that a student may be reimbursed. The minister may place limits on the number of educational activities, or types of educational activities for which a student may be reimbursed. The student must be of school age, a resident in British Columbia, and must demonstrate a standard of achievement that is satisfactory to the minister in the designated educational activities. It is up to the minister to monitor these programs that are done through the private system, rather than boards or principals.

This section will allow students in the public school system to shop around in different private schools and institutions to put together a program presumably leading toward graduation, although graduation is not specifically stated. It is possible that students could take courses and later find out that they are not being credited towards graduation. The government is going to assist in paying for this increased choice—"choice" is the government’s word—and it leaves much discretion to the ministry to determine the criteria for eligibility both in terms of students and educational programs. It obviously paves the way for privatization of education.

Changes for the college

Lastly, the act makes some changes to the Teaching Profession Act, which governs the College of Teachers. The college will be required to hold its AGM between September 1 and December 31 in each calendar year. It currently has its AGM in the spring. More importantly, Section 33 requires the college to distribute information to its members at the minister’s request at the time and in the manner determined by the minister, and it requires the minister to reimburse the college for the expense in doing so. So this amendment really allows government to communicate directly with teachers as it promised in its Throne Speech. It gets around aspects of privacy legislation because the college cannot ask boards directly for teachers’ home addresses and phone numbers. Instead it statutorily requires the college to send out government information to teachers.

Diane MacDonald is a BCTF staff lawyer.

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