Cuts to hit rural schools extra hard: unions
“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.”
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.
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
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.