ONTARIO PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARDS’ ASSOCIATION (OPSBA)
What Is OPSBA?
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) represents public district school boards and public school authorities throughout Ontario, which together serve more than 1.2 million elementary and secondary students. The association advocates for the best interests and needs of the public school system in Ontario. OPSBA is seen as the credible voice of public education in Ontario and is routinely called on by the provincial government for input and advice on legislation and the impact of government policy directions.
Statement of Mission and Beliefs
OPSBA’s mission is to promote and enhance public education by:
- helping member boards to fulfil their mandates;
- developing effective partnerships with other groups interested in public education; and
- providing a strong and effective voice on behalf of public education in Ontario.
OPSBA believes that the role of public education is to provide education for all students, regardless of their ethnic, racial, or cultural backgrounds; social or economic status; individual exceptionality; or religious preference.
The association also believes that excellence in education is achieved by:
- promoting high standards of individual achievement;
- providing the understanding and basic skills required for active, compassionate participation in the life of the family, community, province, nation, and global society;
- cultivating a love of learning;
- recognizing the value of diversity among learners and communities; and
- exploring creative educational alternatives.
OPSBA believes that to maintain excellence the public school system must be accountable to the community it serves and must work to fulfil its mandate through building strong community partnerships. The association also believes that local, democratically elected school boards play a key role in ensuring that schools remain responsive to both provincial program requirements and local needs and resources.
Membership and Services
Public school boards reaffirm their membership in OPSBA annually by a resolution of the board and payment of the annual membership fee. Individual trustees do not pay membership fees. Once a board has joined OPSBA, all board trustees are automatically members of the association and can fully participate in all association activities, programs, and decision making. In this way, a public school board is a corporate member of OPSBA. OPSBA services are designed to benefit and meet the needs of boards as corporate entities, as well as meet the individual needs of trustees.
All public boards are members of OPSBA for many good reasons. These include high-quality services, the collective influence the association has on provincial government decisions, participation in government work groups and committees that develop education policy, and the money saved through collective action. Every member board saves its annual membership fee many times over through the ongoing initiatives and cost-saving measures that OPSBA undertakes on their behalf.
The financial reasons for membership in OPSBA are matched by the information resources that the association makes available to its membership. OPSBA has established a number of collaborative staff networks across the education sectors. The association provides numerous opportunities for member trustees to become knowledgeable about vital emerging issues, such as the implications of new legislation and policies. The Association ensures as well that its members have opportunities to hear from and exchange ideas directly with political leaders, senior Ministry of Education staff, federation leaders and legal experts. This exchange of perspectives is highly valued by member board trustees and regarded as an important and essential part of their role.
School board trustees throughout the province benefit from participating in the association’s grassroots operational and policy development mechanisms. Through various committees, work groups, regional councils, and the board of directors, trustees are elected and/or appointed by their peers to participate in all aspects of the association’s business, from influencing provincial policy to planning conferences and honouring the contributions of fellow school board members through annual awards.
OPSBA is non-profit, non-partisan, democratically run and provides an increasingly effective, unified voice for public education. It is an issue driven organization and exists to serve its member boards by influencing government legislation and policy and by providing valuable services to member boards in ways that are much more cost effective than would be the case if individual boards acted in isolation.
Key Service Areas
Under provincial legislation OPSBA is the designated bargaining agent for public school boards in central bargaining with teachers and support staff in the province. The association also provides member boards and other education stakeholders with information on labour relations and human resources issues that affect public school boards in Ontario. Services to senior board staff and trustees include: regular meetings of the Provincial Labour Relations Network; legal advice and analysis on relevant legislation; an annual labour relations symposium which includes workshops on critical emerging issues. Through the Ontario Education Services Corporation, OPSBA offers access to the OESC Provincial Portal which provides authorized users with information on negotiations as well as a comprehensive searchable database of collective agreements, legal opinions and arbitration decisions. This is a restricted access database available to public, Catholic, and French Language school boards in Ontario.
Programs and Student Services
OPSBA advocates for its member boards and for all public school students on matters of curriculum and program, student assessment matters, special education policy and student well-being. This is done through OPSBA participation on ministry committees and work teams, information sharing, position papers, and OPSBA events and meetings that ministry officials attend.
OPSBA actively supports measures aimed at improving student achievement and provides input in a range of areas including curriculum review, student success initiatives, child and youth mental health, strategies related to First Nation, Métis and Inuit education, full-day kindergarten and the integration of technology in learning and teaching.
Lobbying and increasing public awareness on education finance issues are priorities for the Association. OPSBA monitors, researches, analyzes and reports to member boards on policies and legislation relating to education finance, and develops discussion and position papers on this topic. In its submissions to the Minister, OPSBA consistently and successfully advocates for improvements in and ongoing review of the provincial education fundingmodel. This work is frequently undertaken in collaboration with OPSBA’s education sector partners.
The OPSBA Finance Database allows the association to deliver messages regarding education finance with accurate, current information. Member boards can also contact OPSBA staff with requests for data and analysis.
OPSBA’s Finance Technical Team is a group of business officials from member boards that advises the association on issues relating to the development and enhancement of the OPSBA Finance Database. The team also advises the association on the technical aspects of government finance announcements.
OPSBA actively tackles the problem of rising energy costs on behalf of school boards. As a leader, through OESC, in the Ontario School Energy Coalition, the association has contributed to achieving substantial and sustainable energy savings for all school boards and continues these successes through energy intervention work at the Ontario Energy Board.
Lobbying and Government Relations
OPSBA directs the government’s attention to the views of public school boards on policy affecting the boards, the publicly funded school system, and children’s issues. The association routinely communicates with the Minister of Education, senior government officials, and government members from all political parties.
While the Legislature is in session, OPSBA staff issue a legislative synopsis detailing the events that occurred that are relevant to the education sector. This synopsis gives trustees and board staff the opportunity to quickly ascertain what discussion occurred in the Legislature about an issue of concern to them, as well as information on any debates that took place and the results. Where draft legislation directly affects school boards, OPSBA frequently makes submissions to the legislature and presents at legislative standing committees.
Lobbying on federal issues is undertaken through the Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA), of which OPSBA is a member. These include issues related to First Nation, Métis and Inuit education, 21st century education, student health and wellness, and fair copyright practices.
Communications and Media Relations
OPSBA is dedicated to promoting public confidence and community support for public education. OPSBA plays a key role in shaping public opinion and influencing policy development on education issues through the print, broadcast and social media. OPSBA’s Communications Networking group brings together school board communications officers and is a valuable strategy for developing and sharing approaches to positive communications with the public around student achievement and well-being.
OPSBA‘s website offers rich resources for member boards and the general public. The website is updated daily to ensure that vital and timely information is available.
Lobbying and public awareness on education governance and the vital role of local democratically elected school boards are a priority for the association. OPSBA researches and reports to member boards on issues that affect school board governance, and monitors provincial legislation for issues that affect a school board’s ability to operate effectively.
OPSBA submits position papers to the government on governance-related issues, developing its positions by considering legal liability, corporate responsibility, and adherence to statutory obligations.
With the goal of advocating for an education system that works for children, families and communities, the association is vigilant in ensuring that any legislative changes support and enhance school boards’ governance structures.
Legal Defence Fund
OPSBA maintains a legal defence fund. When legal matters arise that affect the interests of all public school boards, this fund is used to engage in necessary court challenges and other initiatives that protect member boards.
Professional Development and Board Management Services
Providing a rich program of professional development for member boards is critical to supporting trustees in their public education advocacy role. Symposia, provincial and regional meetings, workshops and seminars focused on key education issues are regularly offered to trustees and senior board staff. In addition to engaging trustees in dynamic dialogue with leading experts on trends in education, they provide legal and other professional advice to member boards on matters such as school board operations, conflict of interest, tendering practices, provincial laws and regulations affecting school management, compliance on school closures, copyright, and government legislation. These professional learning opportunities are designed to further develop and refine the management and leadership skills of public school trustees.
In conjunction with partner associations in Ontario, OPSBA offers free online professional development for trustees including multimedia training modules aimed at strengthening skills and knowledge in school board governance.
Ten good reasons why School Boards belong in OPSBA
- Effective leadership in collective bargaining
- Access to energy savings and a range of education services through OPSBA’s partnership with the Ontario Education Services Corporation (OESC)
- Effective lobbying on issues that make a difference for students: education funding, child care, First Nations, Métis and Inuit education, children and youth mental health, safe schools, special education, technology in learning and teaching
- High quality professional development opportunities for school trustees
- Media relations, social media and information services support on all key issues
- United and credible voice in advocacy and action in legislative and policy changes
- Democratic environment and responsiveness to Member Board needs
- Practical support for complying with legislative change: School Board Collective Bargaining, Safe Schools, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities
- Strategic relations with education partners across Ontario and Canada
- Respected source of consultation by the provincial government for all education initiatives