Public school trustees seek repeal of ASBA Act
Association and board at odds over membership, secretive spending
The latest shot in a long-running dispute, Edmonton public school trustees will lobby Alberta’s education minister to repeal a piece of legislation that governs the Alberta School Boards’ Association.
One of few education groups in Alberta with its own legislation, the Alberta School Boards’ Association Act “furthers a false sense of entitlement from the ASBA in the education community and may mislead future trustee candidates or parents into believing the ASBA is an oversight body or higher authority,” wrote trustee Michael Janz in his argument to win his board colleagues’ support for the motion.
Trustees voted unanimously in favour at a Tuesday meeting.
The association and the Edmonton public school board are at odds over the board’s membership in the association. Edmonton Public Schools pays more than $200,000 of public money per year to belong to the association and derives little benefit, trustees have said.
Although the association — and the legislation — says membership is optional for boards, Edmonton Public trustees say they are “held captive” by a rule that requires school boards to be members to register their employees in the Alberta School Employees Benefit Plan. School boards risk violating collective agreements with thousands of workers if they pull out of the benefit plan.
Out of protest, Edmonton Public trustees don’t participate in any association activities, even though they’re shelling out annual dues.
“I think there needs to be a decision made that boards aren’t shoehorned into it,” Edmonton Public board chairwoman Michelle Draper said in an interview Tuesday.
The association has come under fire during the last two years for what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and some trustees say is questionable and secretive spending, including $900 spent on an Easter egg hunt.
“I feel that an association that is resistant to transparency and expense disclosures, as we’ve talked about many times, certainly is not in alignment with Edmonton public school board,” trustee Cheryl Johner said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
In a short emailed statement Tuesday evening, ASBA president Mary Martin said the organization sees things differently.
“We are puzzled about why this is coming forward now, as this is old news and has been addressed numerous times in the past,” she wrote.
Many smaller Alberta school boards without professionals on staff depend on the association for help with legal affairs and professional development.
When asked if he would consider repealing the legislation, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen was non-committal.
“I believe the Alberta School Boards Association is an important organization and generally serves our school boards well,” said an emailed statement from Eggen.