Toronto Catholic District School Board budget cuts for special ed programs

By 
  • April 14, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Close to 6,000 students enrolled in the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s special education programs will suffer from the upcoming reassignment of 67 teachers, says the head of the teachers’ union.

“How can you remove 67 teachers and not expect it to have a detrimental impact on the neediest students?” said Anthony Bellissimo, president of the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers , adding there is a waiting list to get needy students into special education classes.

The Catholic board plans to reassign 111 elementary school teachers, including 67 special education teachers. Gary Poole, Superintendent of Education in human resources, said the move is due to a number of factors, including the need to balance the board’s budget, having fewer students, which means less government funding, and a “refocusing of programs.”

The move will save the board $2.6 million and will not have a negative impact upon students’ education, Poole told The Register.

“There will not be (teacher) layoffs,” Poole said. “We’re realigning and focusing the delivery by amalgamating some of our specialty programs together.” 

This would include some of  the board’s learning disabilities classes and creating eight new classes for students with autism. Teachers will also be reassigned to help reduce the class size of students in Grades 4-8, expand English-as-a-second-language programs, support the increase in preparation time in elementary schools and fill openings in high schools with high enrolment.

According to Poole, the board is working with the union in organizing the upcoming teacher reassignments.

But Bellissimo said his group presented its case against removing special education teachers to the board’s supervision team before it made its decision. He said this illustrates some of the difficulties of having a provincially supervised board.

“Now that we have a supervisor, all decisions are behind closed doors,” Bellissimo said. “We don’t know what’s being said. We can present at the board before the supervisor, but he makes the decisions behind closed doors.”

Last year, trustees voted against cutting teachers’ jobs which partly contributed to the board’s inability to balance its budget. This, in part, led to the Ontario government’s takeover of the board which is now run by provincially appointed supervisor Norbert Hartmann.

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