As you may be aware, a class action suit was filed in 2013 against all Quebec public school boards concerning fees charged to parents. The reasoning behind this legal recourse was to ensure that each Québec child receive a free education.
Over the past few weeks, the parents who instituted this legal recourse came to an agreement, in principle, with the school boards of Quebec. The Courts should ratify this agreement sometime this summer. The parties to this agreement-in-principle expected the Ministry of Education et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (MEES) to take part in this settlement.
Guidelines related to school fees were established more than fifty years ago and remained unrevised. The MEES agrees that those guidelines no longer reflect today’s reality regarding current student needs. Therefore, on June 7, 2018, the MEES issued a Directive with regard to school fees. The Minister of Education, Mr. Sébastien Proulx, subsequently conducted a press conference. For your information, we are attaching a copy of the MEES Directives. We also strongly encourage you to view the Minister’s press conference at the following URL:
The nine English School Boards have come together to offer their parents and educators a common interpretation of the Education Act, the Directive of the MEES and the subsequent press conference by the Minister of Education.
EXCERPTS OF THE EDUCATION ACT
3. The educational services provided for by this Act and prescribed by the basic school regulation established by the Government under section 447 shall be provided free to every resident of Québec entitled thereto under section 1.
Literacy services and the other learning services prescribed by the basic school regulation for adult education shall be provided free to residents of Québec contemplated in section 2, subject to the conditions prescribed by the said regulation.
The educational services prescribed by the basic vocational training regulation shall be provided free to every resident of Québec, subject, however, to the conditions determined in the basic regulation if the person is 18 years of age or older, or 21 years of age or older in the case of a handicapped person within the meaning of the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration (chapter E20.1).
7. Students other than those enrolled in adult education have a right to the free use of textbooks and other instructional material required for the teaching of programs of studies until the last day of the school calendar of the school year in which they reach 18 years of age, or 21 years of age in the case of handicapped persons within the meaning of the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration (chapter E-20.1). Each student shall have the personal use of the textbook chosen pursuant to section 96.15 for each compulsory and elective subject in which the student receives instruction.
The right of free use does not extend to documents in which students write, draw or cut out.
Instructional material does not include pencils, paper and other objects of a like nature.
The Minister of Education stated throughout his Directive and press conference, the three underlying values of the Québec education system: Universality, Accessibility and Equity. The Minister made it abundantly clear that all fees charged to parents must be reasonable. While Minister Proulx did not specify what is deemed reasonable, he has obliged all school boards to ensure that fees charged to parents are as minimal as possible, while respecting and reaffirming the professional autonomy of teachers in their choice of items that are to be purchased by parents.
SCHOOL FEES LISTS
Attached is a non-exhaustive list of items that could be purchased by parents. As school boards, we understand that items purchased by parents should not be expensive. Nor will schools require parents to purchase a specific brand or model.
In the coming months, Quebec citizens will have to consider the important role that the public school education system plays in the lives of our children. The Minister announced that he would undertake a consultative process entitled “Les Grands Chantiers en Éducation” which will begin in the fall of 2018 and lead to an amendment of the Education Act by the spring of 2019. Hopefully, this initiative will provide greater clarity on the question of what should be free and what parents may choose to pay for.
Activities and field trips that are directly related to the classroom programs taught and for which the students are evaluated, shall be free.
Conversely, optional complementary activities and field trips such as a visit to the zoo, a ski day, out-of- country trips, may be charged to parents.
SPECIAL PROJECTS SCHOOLS
The Minister clearly mentioned that special project schools may continue to charge some fees to parents.
It is therefore permitted for schools to charge parents third party fees. Examples include: providers of goods or services closely related to a particular program, such as fees for sports federations, external coaching, rental of arenas outside of school property, or International Baccalaureate fees.
Nonetheless, the principle of free education still applies to these programs for educational services provided, instructional material related to the program, registration and entrance exam fees, as well as goods and services offered by the school related to these programs.
Furthermore, human resource costs related to the coordination and administration of these programs may not be charged to parents. Neither can the use of school property or materials like novels, dictionaries, grammar books, etc. This principle applies to specialized programs as well.
Please refer to the attached list of which fees may or may not be charged to parents.
Regular transportation to and from school during the regular school day is free for students within their designated transportation zone.
Where available, transportation to attend a school outside of a student’s transportation zone can be charged. Lunch hour transportation and accommodation busing may also be charged to parents.
Daycare fees may be charged in accordance with the MEES Budgetary rules. Lunch hour supervision may also be charged to parents.
All fees charged to parents must be reasonable and must respect the actual costs of the services provided.
The nine English Schools Boards in Quebec are committed to the following three principles:
- Working with our parents, teachers and the Ministry of Education to clarify which fees can be charged in the future and which cannot;
- Ensuring that the public school system continues to thrive; and Ensuring that our students receive the best educational experience.
As we receive more clarification on this subject, our school communities will be informed.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS DOCUMENT IS AN INTERPRETATION OF THE LAW AND REGULATIONS. ANY DISPUTE REGARDING THE ABOVE INTERPRETATION SHALL BE SETTLED BY REFERRING TO THE OFFICIAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS AS SET FORTH BY THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.
See the full list of fees that can and cannot be charged to parents and items that can and cannot be requested of parents to provide in the tables at the end of the this document.
 The Education Act is a Quebec legislation which creates the School Boards and regulates them.