Pillar 6: School Board Governance

Student Trustees: Moving and Seconding Motions

Student trustees play a vital role in school boards across Ontario by serving as the voice of the primary stakeholders in education; the students. A student trustee’s primary duty is to advocate on behalf of the students in their board and furthermore serve as a liaison between students and board personnel. Currently, Section 55 (4) of the Education Act states the following: “a student trustee is not entitled to move a motion, but is entitled to suggest a motion on any matter at a meeting of the board or of one of its committees on which the student trustee sits, and if no member of the board or committee, as the case may be, moves the suggested motion, the record shall show the suggested motion.” As Ontario continues to revitalize the student trustee role and amplify student voice across the province, it is important that elected youth have the opportunity to effectively advocate for change in benefit of their constituents. Student trustees across Ontario see huge discrepancies in their rights around the board table, as some student trustees can move their own motions, others can try to suggest a motion through another trustee, and some student trustees are prohibited to even bring up a motion. By allowing student trustees to move and second motions through the Education Act, it allows standardization in student trustee rights across the province and showing students that Ontario values student voice in a tangible way. The role of a student trustee is very similar to the role of an ex officio member of a school board. “Ex officio” is a Latin term meaning “by virtue of office or position.” In this situation, student trustees are ex officio members as they are at the board table by virtue of their position as student trustees. The eleventh and most recently published version of Robert’s Rules of Order states that “ ex-officio member of the board is under the authority of the society (that is, if he is a member, an employee, or an elected or appointed officer of the society), there is no distinction between him and the other board members. If the ex-officio member is not under the authority of the society, he has all the privileges of board membership, including the right to make motions and to vote.”[1] As with any parliamentary procedure, rules may be altered to fit the legal or political circumstances of society. To move and second motions (without the ability to vote) is a right of an ex-officio member, a.k.a a student trustee, that should not be disallowed based on Ontario law. Allowing student trustees to move and second their own motions would be a major achievement for student trustees, school boards across Ontario, and student voice overall.

Recommendation 6.1: OSTA-AECO recommends that the Education Act be amended to officially recognize student trustees as ex officio members of school boards, ultimately providing student trustees with the right to move and second motions.

OSTA Supports

Despite the valuable work and ongoing success of OSTA-AECO, there are challenges that inhibit the association and, by extension, the student trustees of Ontario. Two of the most prominent and significant obstacles are inequitable and inaccessible professional development (PD) budgets as well as insufficiency in annual revenue for OSTA-AECO as an association. These ongoing changes hinder the ability of student trustees to best represent and advocate on behalf of Ontario’s approximately 2 million students.

Inequitable and Inaccessible P.D. Budgets

As a result of the 1990 funding formula consultations, a modification to the formula was made to take into account the membership fees of school trustee associations in order to alleviate the burden of these membership fees on school board budgets. At the time when these changes occurred, OSTA-AECO had not yet been founded and therefore, to this day, OSTA-AECO conference and membership fees do not see the same financial support as those of adult trustee associations, even though Section 55(7) of the Ontario Education Act stipulates that “a student trustee has the same status as a board member with respect to access to board resources and opportunities for training.” This means that, in many cases, membership fees are deducted from the already insufficient PD budgets available to student trustees. Consequently, although every board in the province belongs to a school trustee association, 52% of school boards do not purchase OSTA-AECO memberships. This funding inadequacy leads to an even greater number of members that do not attend conferences or provincial meetings. In addition to the strained budgets of Ontario’s student trustees, the current unpredictability of annual revenue requires the association to ask the members of the Executive Council to absorb the costs associated with these meetings into their own school board professional development budgets. As a result, executive members have reduced budget funds available to them for professional development, which places an unfair onus on school board budgets. This is particularly challenging for executive members who live far from Toronto who often travel from great distances to take part in the efforts of the association; no student trustee should be precluded from serving on the executive due to geographic and financial constraints.

Recommendation

Each year, OSTA-AECO determines membership fees using a two-part formula and charges a registration fee for attendance at each conference. The organization proposes that in addition to providing the fixed and variable membership fee amount to school boards, an additional $1,800 per student trustee be allocated to be used for registration fees at provincial meetings. The model would be structured as follows and allocated in addition to the current $2,500 given to school boards to support student voice.

  • Fixed Base Membership Fee: $750
  • Variable Membership Fee: $1,800 per Student Trustee + $0.05 per student

Combined, the base and variable membership fees allow for an equitable contribution to OSTA-AECO across boards of all sizes, in addition to the current funding that is provided to school boards to promote student voice activities. In Ontario, student trustees, pursuant to section 55(7) of the Education Act, have the same status as all board members with respect to access to board resources and training opportunities. By providing OSTA-AECO with the same support other trustees associations currently receive, OSTA-AECO will be able to effectively plan and execute strategic priorities as outlined in this document; while removing the financial strain currently placed on Ontario school boards. Ultimately, these changes will not only free school boards from the financial challenges associated with supporting the incredible work accomplished by student trustees’ but will improve the advocacy ability of student trustees, and will equitably improve the quality of education for Ontario’s most important investment: its students. Therefore, OSTA-AECO recommends that the

Recommendation 6.2: Ministry of Education provide student trustees and OSTA-AECO with the same financial resources as school trustee associations while committing to support the students of Ontario by increasing the overall amount allocated to Student Trustee PD.

References   [ + ]

1. General Henry M. Robert, Robert’s Rules of Order: Newly Revised. (DA CAPO PRESS, 2011).