Pub­lic school trus­tees seek re­peal of ASBA Act

As­so­ci­a­tion and board at odds over mem­ber­ship, se­cre­tive spend­ing

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - JANET FRENCH jfrench@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/jantafrench

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.

Michelle Draper

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