There is a wonderful British sitcom about parliamentary democracy and the inner workings of a government office.

The title of it comes from a running joke throughout the episodes where, regardless of what inane, idiotic, simplistic or just plain dumb idea the Minister comes up with, the staff fall all over themselves to be the first to say “Yes, Minister”. It makes for great television. It is less certain it will make for great public policy.

Instead of simply responding to the Minister’s recommendations on school board governance with a “Yes, Minister”, AIMS points to the greater issues surrounding education in the province and recommends systemic solutions rather than patchwork fixes.

“Yes, Minister” is a No-No: Why good television makes for bad education policy points out that making small tweaks in an attempt to fix governance doesn’t address the real issue. Governance problems are only a symptom of a greater problem: a lack of true ownership of schools by the communities they serve.

Co-authors Bobby O’Keefe and Charles Cirtwill explain that real solutions to fixing accountability can be found in several places around the globe. Edmonton, New Zealand, and even New Orleans have found that the solution to fixing their education problems lies in making schools directly accountable to the communities they serve, as well as giving those schools and their communities the power to run their schools in the best way possible for the community.

In Yes, Minister, the authors move beyond the governance problems that are being used as a smokescreen for further centralization and recommend changes for the whole system that put children, parents, and schools ahead of bureaucracy. 

“Local control – that is the key to better educated kids,” says Cirtwill. “You don’t get local control through regional school boards and departmental appointments. Autonomous schools have flourished throughout Canada and around the world. Ten years ago we opened the lid on this discussion and it was slammed shut by the education establishment in this province. The current “crisis” in Board governance is just the pry bar we need to force the box open again.” 

To read the complete paper, click here.