Services requiring a financial contribution
The Education Act now specifies that the right to free educational services does not apply to certain services provided within the scope of special school projects and certain school activities determined by regulation by the Minister, according to the terms and conditions therein.
A “special school project” is a project approved by the governing board and applicable to one or more groups of students enrolled in an elementary or secondary school, including:
- Sports-Study programs recognized by the Minister
- Arts-Study programs recognized by the Minister
- Programs recognized by the International Baccalaureate Organization
- Concentration- or profile-type projects aimed at responding to students’ interests with activities or local programs and teaching practices related to the field of activity specifically targeted by the project
Special school projects may apply to all students in a school if the school is approved by the Minister as a school for the purposes of a specific project (Education Act, s. 240).
Services provided within the scope of a special school project to which the right to free educational services provided for in section 3 of the Education Act does not apply include:
- Certification by an outside body in order to carry out the project
- Clarification: In most cases, the program certification requirement applies to programs recognized by the International Baccalaureate Organization. Non-mandatory certifications and affiliations cannot not be subject to a financial contribution from parents.
- The issuing to the student of a certificate by an outside body within the scope of the project
- Clarification: Only programs recognized by the International Baccalaureate Organization may be subject to such financial contributions.
- The school coordination required to allow the carrying out of the project
- Clarification: Only the coordination of educational services specifically provided for in the special project may be subject to a financial contribution from parents; for example, the coordination of services for interdisciplinary projects or students’ community involvement within the scope of the International Baccalaureate program.
- The participation of a coach or other specialist not acting as a teacher in a program of study
- Clarification: This could be a person offering peripheral services for identified sports, a specialist music teacher, a coach or a specialist in theatre or dance.
- Clarification: A program of study involves subjects taught by a teacher and cannot be subject to a financial contribution from parents since this is an instructional service.
- The renting of a sports facility or of premises required for the carrying out of a project
- Clarification: A school cannot require a financial contribution from parents for services offered on its own premises, since no rental fees apply.
The right to free educational services does not apply to specialized equipment specifically required to carry out a special school project or to the maintenance of such equipment.
According to the fifth paragraph of section 3 of the Education Act, which will take effect on July 1, 2020, a school may require a financial contribution for a service provided within the scope of a special school project only if it also offers a choice of an educational pathway exempt from such contribution.
Relationship between special school projects and a school’s educational project
A school’s educational project contains the school’s specific policies and the objectives selected for improving student success. These policies and objectives are designed to ensure that the Québec education policy framework is implemented, adapted and enriched. They must also be consistent with the school board’s commitment-to-success plan (Education Act, s. 37). Consequently, the implementation of special school projects must be consistent with the policies and objectives contained in the school’s educational project.
Departures from the Basic school regulation
Some school projects may require a departure from the Basic school regulation for preschool, elementary and secondary education. According to section 222 of the Education Act, a school board may, subject to the rules governing certification of studies, permit a departure from a provision of the basic school regulation so that a special school project applicable to a group of students may be carried out.
Special school projects other than those provided for by regulation are also offered in the school system. These include special school projects preparing students 15 years of age or older for admission to vocational training. Exceptions to the right to free educational services provided within the scope of special school projects prescribed by regulation and exceptions to the right to free instructional materials do not apply to these types of projects. Financing for the implementation of special school projects preparing students for admission to vocational training is provided for in the school boards’ budgetary rules.
Schools established for the purposes of a specific project
According to section 240 of the Education Act, by way of exception, at the request of a group of parents and after consulting with the parents’ committee, a school board may, with the Minister’s approval, establish a school for the purposes of a specific project other than a religious project, subject to the conditions and for the period determined by the Minister.
As of July 1, 2020, only schools established for the purposes of a specific project under section 240 may charge fees to all students attending such a school. Other schools must offer an option that is exempt from these financial contributions.
The legislative and regulatory provisions stipulate that school activities may be subject to financial contributions from parents.
Activities outside the school
A financial contribution may be required for activities carried out off the premises of the educational institution attended by the student. These activities involve travel outside the school or centre, either on foot, using public transit or with transportation organized by the educational institution. Contributions may be required for activities carried out within the scope of a special school project or regular program.
They include educational activities; for example, visits to a museum, theatre, farm or market. They also include more recreational or social activities such as visits to an amusement park or picnics at an outdoor recreational area. They usually take place during school hours. Sometimes they may take place outside school hours, such as in the case of end-of-year trips.
The Education Act stipulates that contributions cannot exceed the actual cost of the activity. The actual cost of an outing includes:
- Admission fees
- Registration fees in the case of a competition
- The cost of hiring a substitute for a teacher accompanying a group of students, if the teacher needs to be replaced
- The teacher’s participation fee
Also, when a school does not have the facilities necessary to offer a compulsory course and there are costs associated with the use of other facilities, it cannot require a financial contribution from parents. This is the case, for example, when students in Physical Education and Health go to the pool. However, if the use of other facilities is required to carry out a special school project, it may be subject to a fee from parents of students enrolled in the project.
The Education Act provides for funding equivalent to two free school outings per student per year in preschool, elementary school and secondary school. To this end, it requires that the school boards’ budgetary rules include subsidies to finance these two school activities. It is up to schools to decide how to use the amounts earmarked for outings, provided they respect the guidelines of the school boards’ budgetary rules.
Vocational training and adult general education students are also entitled to cultural outings during their training process.
Activities at the school
A financial contribution may be required for activities similar to school activities taking place outside the school and requiring the participation of a person who is not on the school board’s staff, for example, a scientific guide or an animal expert. These types of activities take place in the school or on school property.
They are carried out during school hours and may or may not be within the scope of a special school project.
Practicums for students in the Work-Oriented Training Path are not considered outings subject to a financial contribution.
Extracurricular activities and summer courses
According to sections 90 and 91 of the Education Act, the governing board may organize educational services other than those prescribed by the Basic school regulation. These services, often referred to as extracurricular activities, include instructional services outside teaching periods during the school days of the school calendar or on non-school days, as well as social, cultural or sports services, such as language, karate and drama courses. The governing board may also allow other persons or organizations to organize such services on school premises.
A financial contribution may be required from parents for the goods or services offered, except if financing is already provided for in the school boards’ budgetary rules.
A financial contribution may also be required for summer courses held on non-school days.