Thursday, May 19, 2005

SK school boards fight against amalgation

The province's plan to amalgamate school boards has never been a winner where it matters most -- in rural Saskatchewan. In fact, the only people affected by amalgation live in rural areas. A group of community organizations have announced they are taking the province to court to fight forced amalgamation.

The case for amalgamation is thin. The province argues ultimately that we have too many school boards in Saskatchewan, which is inherently inefficient. They argue that larger school boards will result in the elimination of "zero-grant boards" (school boards that are funded entirely from the property tax base).

The case against amalgamation is stronger. Drawing lines on a map throws away the best practices of the more innovative school boards. There are many boards who have gone to great lengths to find efficiencies and improve services while at the same time holding the line on their mill rate. Amalgamating those boards away basically throws out the good stuff.

With larger school boards comes greater union bargaining power, which ultimately leads to higher taxes. Competition between many school boards is a virtue, but don't tell this government that.

Geography. Arbitrary lines on a map mean that some school boards are the size of small European countries...a logistical nightmare.

Keep an eye on amalgamation, this could be trouble down the road.


John Murney said...

Hi David - I finally had a chance to check out this blog - congratulations and welcome to blogging!

You are correct sir, with every comment you made in this article; if I may, I would like to add one more.

David, we in Saskatchewan have been down this road before,with the creation of the health districts in the early 1990s. Prior to the creation of the districts, hospitals, ambulances and other local health services were governed by volunteer boards; these bodies functioned well.
But, after the creation of the health districts, something very insidious happened; hospitals started to close and nursing positions decreased or were made part-time, but what replaced it was something unbelievable; bureaucracy.
Large bureaucracies started to sprout up in the administration offices of health districts, that did not exist at the time of the volunteer boards. What emerged, was a system where front line services were scaled back while the bureaucracy for administrating health care ballooned. We are living with the fallout from this mess today. Also,the provincial government now handpicks the health district board of directors, instead of electing them.

I fear amalgamated school boards will be a repeat of what happened with the health boards.

David MacLean said...

I think you can pretty much guarantee the same outcome. Also see Manitoba's experience with school amalgamation, which led to higher taxes and longer bus rides.

Anonymous said...

The size of school boards has absolutley no impact one way or the other on so-called "union bargaining power".

Rosie said...

Thanks for the new Blog. We need you.
Amalgamation in Winnipeg & Area shool boards has proved to be a nightmare for taxpayers. Every level of staffing had to come into line with the best paid school divisions' payscale and benifits package. The librairies in the division I live in have extraordinary standards, the division that joined ours didn't. The costs of bringing thier system up to ours has been both unforeseen and expensive in an untold number of ways. The imediate reaction to the governments' mandatory amalgamation was a school busdriver strike. These are just the things I know about. How much is untold?

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