Public participation

Beamsville District Secondary School, Ontario

Public participation in accommodation review proccesses

School closure decision making process have been framed by policy makers in Ontario, through the accommodation review process (ARCs) (2006), as exercised in public participation. Critics of ARCs have decried the process being more of a subterfuge than a genuine attempt of joint institutional-community review. At its core, our research is a quest to better understand the relationship between institutions of education, in Ontario represented by the provincial Ministry of Education and local school boards, and the community.

Furthering this understanding will require addressing the question: How do people view the concrete and practical application of school closure policy in their community? Critics of the current ARC process in Ontario have stated that the provincial government appears to ne be making use of school boards to regulate the citizenry to their own end, applying the version of the Foucauldain notion of governmentality. The questions are: How does the community view the consequences of school closings, especially as the closing occur in local settings? How does (or do) the end results of school closings reflect what community members’ desire? or the process of review?

This research will start with the premise that ‘true public participation’ in any policy decision rests not only with the institution listening to the community; the institution needs also to consciously include the community insights into the final outcome. Therefore institutional context and motive plays a pivotal role in determining a group or individual’s capacity to make informed choices, and then transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Capturing that institutional context and motivation as it realties to public participation, actual and perceived, is a major focus of our research.

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