Cuts to hit ru­ral schools ex­tra hard: unions

The Glengarry News - - Front Page -

“Dis­as­trous con­se­quences” be acutely felt in area schools if the On­tario govern­ment pur­sues its ed­u­ca­tion re­forms.

So say union mem­bers who or­ga­nized a rally at Stor­mont-Dun­das-South Glen­garry Con­ser­va­tive MPP Jim Mc­Donell’s of­fice in Corn­wall re­cently.

About 175 ed­u­ca­tion work­ers, par­ents, stu­dents, and con­cerned com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered in “an ap­peal to pro­tect what mat­ters most – our stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion,” or­ga­niz­ers say.

The rally is part of a cam­paign to con­vince Pre­mier Doug Ford to re­con­sider his govern­ment’s re­cent bud­get, “which in­cluded dec­i­mat­ing cuts to On­tario’s world-class pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.”

“The im­pact of these cuts is am­pli­fied lo­cally where ge­og­ra­phy, de­clin­ing en­rol­ment, and ru­ral eco­nomic chal­lenges al­ready place great strain on our ru­ral schools, which are now be­ing asked to do even more with even less. Dis­as­trous con­se­quences of these cuts will in­clude classes that bal­loon in size and hun­dreds of cour­ses that will no longer be avail­able, se­verely con­strain­ing stu­dents’ op­tions for plan­ning their path­ways for their fu­tures,” the unions warn.

Aus­ter­ity moves “will hurt chil­dren with special needs, af­fect stu­dents’ health.”

“Corn­wall and area high schools face los­ing a po­ten­tial 25 teach­ers, that equates to a dev­as­tat­ing loss of 150 cour­ses. This greatly lim­its a stu­dent’s op­tions of se­lect­ing cour­ses that meet their needs and in­ter­ests, and can in­hibit post-se­condary op­tions. Fur­ther­more, cuts to special ed­u­ca­tion, stu­dent suc­cess, guid­ance, and sup­port staff are set­ting stu­dents up for fail­ure,” cau­tion the unions.

“Stu­dents in our schools, their par­ents, teach­ers, and our com­mu­ni­ties de­pend on the high-qual­ity ser­vices from the peo­ple who make our schools work: cus­to­di­ans, ed­u­ca­tional as­sis­tants, early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors, of­fice/cler­i­cal staff, li­brary work­ers, com­puter tech­ni­cians, speech lan­guage as­sis­tants, al­ter­na­tive ed­u­ca­tion work­ers and oth­ers,” said Ca­role Airhart, pres­i­dent of Lo­cal 5678 of the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees (CUPE).

“The Ford govern­ment’s cuts to ed­u­ca­tion will hurt chil­dren with special needs who need sup­port from EAs. The cuts will af­fect stu­dents’ health when there aren’t enough

cus­to­di­ans to keep On­tario schools clean. Our stu­dents de­serve bet­ter than that; they de­serve the qual­ity and lev­els of ser­vices that will help them suc­ceed.” The Ford govern­ment’s re­quire­ment for stu­dents to com­plete 4 on­line cour­ses is also a recipe for dis­as­ter. “Many of our fam­i­lies do not have ac­cess at home to a com­puter or re­li­able in­ter­net ser­vice. Fur­ther­more, it has been proven that on­line learn­ing does not work for our stu­dents,” stated Danny Thomas, Pres­i­dent of the Se­condary Teach­ers’ Union of Up­per Canada.

Erin Blair, Pres­i­dent of ETFO Up­per Canada Lo­cal, com­ments, “Larger class sizes and in­suf­fi­cient fund­ing for stu­dents with special needs, men­tal health is­sues, and high-risk be­hav­iours fur­ther am­plify the re­sult­ing im­pact on stu­dent safety and well­be­ing.”

The unions state: “These cuts are noth­ing but detri­men­tal to our schools and stu­dents, and we need to re­mind Doug Ford that cost-sav­ings can­not be put be­fore the well­be­ing of our stu­dents. In­vest­ing in ed­u­ca­tion is how we can pro­tect what mat­ters most in On­tario.”

The Up­per Canada District School Board has blamed its $5.2 mil­lion an­nual trans­porta­tion deficit for im­pend­ing lay­offs. The board has is­sued re­dun­dancy no­tices to 100 teach­ers. While not all 100 will nec­es­sar­ily be let go, some re­duc­tions ap­pear to be un­avoid­able as the board strug­gles to deal with red ink and a re­duc­tion in its grants that are based on en­rol­ment.

80 ‘sur­plus’ teach­ers

About 80 Catholic District School Board of Eastern On­tario high school teach­ers have been de­clared “sur­plus,” but the no­tices do not nec­es­sar­ily mean that they will all be laid off.

As­so­ciate Direc­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion Bon­nie Nor­ton stresses that the let­ters were not pink slips.

The let­ters that were sent out, in ac­cor­dance with the On­tario English Catholic Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion col­lec­tive agree­ment, “were to iden­tify sur­plus to schools and sys­tem,” she said. “These let­ters were not re­dun­dancy let­ters. Teach­ers who re­ceived a sur­plus let­ter will now have the op­por­tu­nity to vie for po­si­tions that will be avail­able and posted through our va­cancy, trans­fer and place­ment process which be­gan on May 15, 2019 and con­tin­ues un­til the end of June 2019 for Septem­ber 2019. This staffing process is con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous years. It is only teach­ers that have not se­cured a po­si­tion for Septem­ber 2019 by the end of June 2019 that will be de­clared re­dun­dant and added to our re­call list.”

Big re­duc­tions

Faced with a deficit of $11.7 mil­lion, the Up­per Canada District School Board is eye­ing staff re­duc­tions through­out the sys­tem.

Special ed­u­ca­tion and sup­ply teach­ers, school of­fice staff and the ru­ral guid­ance coun­sel­lor project may all be af­fected.

Mea­sures be­ing con­sid­ered in­clude re­duc­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor posts, se­condary Stu­dent Suc­cess Teacher jobs, school of­fice sup­port, cen­tral of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tive and TR Leger/con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion staff.

The board is look­ing at re-al­lo­cat­ing funds from the Ru­ral Guid­ance Coun­sel­lors pro­gram, re­duc­ing per­son­nel through at­tri­tion, lay­offs, and re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of pro­grams, curb­ing sys­tem prin­ci­pal and sys­tem teacher as­sign­ments, and trim­ming special ed­u­ca­tion ex­pen­di­tures.

“It’s clear that we will have a lot to con­sider in the com­ing weeks. The board of trustees will work with staff and the rec­om­men­da­tions pro­vided to us to pass a bud­get that meets Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion re­quire­ments and the needs of our stu­dents and staff,” said Chair John McAl­lis­ter.

The fi­nan­cial squeeze re­sults from the provin­cial govern­ment’s re­duc­tion in grants for stu­dent needs fund­ing for 2019-2020. Al­though the board is await­ing tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments from the prov­ince, pre­lim­i­nary cal­cu­la­tions show the UCDSB is fac­ing a bud­get gap of ap­prox­i­mately $11.7 mil­lion for the 2019-2020 school year.

More stu­dents

Le Con­seil sco­laire de district catholique de l’Est on­tarien has said that “be­cause en­rol­ment pro­jec­tions in our schools are on the in­crease again this year, we have rea­son to be op­ti­mistic. How­ever, it is too early to con­firm the ex­act figures.”

The Con­seil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’On­tario is an­a­lyz­ing

RICHARD MAHONEY PHOTO

THIRD TIME THE CHARM? For the third time in two years, a light at a cross­walk on Alexandria’s Main Street has been re­placed. Last week a new pole was erected on the east side of Mill Square, re­plac­ing a fix­ture that was top­pled in Jan­uary when it was struck by a ve­hi­cle. The pole, af­fixed with a so­lar panel, was in­stalled in 2017. It was dam­aged by a United Coun­ties of Stor­mont-Dun­dasGlen­garry truck in 2018.

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