In Canada, education is the responsibility of provincial governments, and in most cases, are governed by democratically elected school boards. School boards and elected trustees are an important part of Canada’s political landscape. They have been partners with communities and provincial governments for as long as Canada has been a country. During this time, Canadian school boards have helped build a universally accessible, publicly funded education system that is among the best in the world.

Under the Canadian constitution, provincial governments decide what school boards do, how they get their money, and how much local autonomy they have. That’s why a school trustee in Manitoba, for example, has a somewhat different role than a school trustee or commissioner in Newfoundland or Quebec.

But the differences are not great. In most provinces, locally elected school trustees/commissioners set and administer an annual budget; hire and promote teachers and administrators; set local school policies; build schools; and purchase supplies.

Some provinces grant school boards the power to levy and collect local property taxes, while others provide all school board revenue from the provincial department of education. Where they do have the right to tax, school boards have more to say about how education dollars are spent in their communities. While school boards have been a long-standing cornerstone in public education in Canada, they have evolved over the years to better accommodate the needs of students, schools and communities. This is reflected in the relationships with education partners and levels of government. At the end of the day the same desire to support students and achieve an excellent public education system drives school board members to dedicate their time to these very important roles.