With Premier Doug Ford’s new vision for education including increased class sizes in schools, some teachers in the Halton public system could lose their jobs.
High schools will see an increase in classroom sizes from 22 to 28 students. Classes in kindergarten to Grade 3 will remain the same, while an increase of one student per class is planned for Grades 4 to 8.
As a result, 155 elementary school teachers and 154 more from secondary schools in the Halton public system have received potential redundancy notices from the board.
It does not mean that they will be laid off for sure, but it is a heads-up that they could be. The board is required to issue the notices, as a result of the collective bargaining agreement between it and the teachers.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson has vowed that no teacher will “involuntarily” lose a job, telling boards that a $1.6-billion attrition protection fund should prevent this.
But teachers aren’t buying her story. They are furious and their unions have launched a campaign which includes wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘I am the face of my union’ while on the job. Tension is almost certain to carry over to contract negotiations
Halton Elementary Teachers Union President Dave Buddell said the last time teachers in Halton were issued the same kind of notices was in 1996 when Mike Harris was Premier, and then there were only 20 issued.
“It’s not business as usual by any stretch of the imagination,” Buddell said. “Halton is a growing board. Over the next seven or eight years there could be an increase of about 7,000 students.”
Meanwhile Nina March, President of Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association Halton Elementary Unit, said she expects the Catholic board’s student numbers to increase for the 2019-2020 school year so the board has not given redundancy notices, to date.
“Children come to school with a diverse range of experiences, strengths and areas of need.,” she said. “Teachers plan, instruct and facilitate student learning for every child in their classroom, whatever the circumstance. The reality of this provincial budget is that there is much less funding for students with special needs and at risk students. These students often require individualized, modified programming and one/one attention and supports.
“With more students in a classroom, there is less time for a teacher to spend with each child. This will not build resiliency nor will it enhance student success.”
Similarly the Catholic board’s secondary school panel has not issued notices yet.
Grants for Student Needs were released by the Ontario government on April 26 but Lorain Beraldo-Turner, President of the OECTA Secondary Halton Unit, is not impressed.
She said province-wide The Pupil Foundation Grant is down $630 million from last year, total funding is up only 0.2 per cent – well below what is needed to keep up with inflation and student population growth and there is no commitment to continue the Local Priorities Fund, negotiated by OECTA to hire teachers to help Indigenous students, students with special education needs, and other at-risk students. The Learning Opportunities Grant, which funds programs for vulnerable students, also has been cut by $200 million, she said.
“It appears the government is trying to distract and mislead Ontarians – the reality is that next school year there will be fewer teachers, fewer programs, and less funding available for services and supports for students.
Beraldo-Turner also said the $1.6 billion attrition fund does not solve the problems the government is creating by increasing class sizes.
“The bottom line is that the changes the government is intent on implementing will mean a loss of thousands of teaching positions (province-wide) – likely well more that the government is claiming.
“They are also neglecting the numerous occasional teachers who have been working and waiting patiently to move into full-time permanent positions who will have to keep waiting as no new positions will become available in the foreseeable future.”
The Bay Observer left messages for Burlington MPP Jane McKenna, but she could not be reached for comment by press time.
The Halton District School Board is holding an education action meeting to get feedback from parents at Frank J. Hayden high school, at the corner of Tim Dobbie Drive and Dundas St., Thursday May 2 at 7 p.m.
The information will be included with trustees’ submissions to the ministry’s consultations on class size and hiring practices.