Doug Ford

Educators bracing for cuts while in a waiting game

By 
  • April 17, 2019

Little was mentioned about education in Doug Ford’s first budget as Ontario premier that wasn’t already known, but all the entities involved had heard all they needed to hear in the weeks leading up to the April 11 budget.

It was the worst-kept secret in the province that the education sector was going to take a hit when Ford and his Progressive Conservative government started whittling away at the province’s almost $15-billion deficit. Since Ford took power in June 2018, cuts have been expected across the board, particularly in education, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of provincial expenditures, second only to the health sector.

Educators soon heard whispers that the new government would be cutting about four per cent from education budgets, and the cuts have been coming incrementally throughout the year. Most recently, the government announced plans to eliminate nearly 4,000 classroom positions through attrition over the next four years and increase class sizes, moves that drew thousands of protesters to Queen’s Park.

With few details released, it has left many boards in the dark as to what they can expect in funding for the coming school year. Complete funding details from the Ministry of Education are expected by the end of the month.

“A lot of it is wait and see,” said Shazia Vlahos, chief of communications and government relations with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. “We don’t know where the four per cent is coming from because the GSN (Grants for Student Needs) have not been released. We don’t know what the full impact will be.”

Funding changes won’t necessarily mean teacher layoffs, but boards are preparing in the event of staff cuts and have provided staff with “surplus” notices, meaning a number of positions may be “surplus” to existing needs.

At the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, that means 58.5 teaching positions will be considered surplus for the next school year, said John Shewchuk, the board’s Chief Managing Officer. These numbers were arrived at “out of an abundance of caution” due to the information available. (Any layoff notices would not be sent until the end of May, he said.)

“This process of early notification allows the board to preserve maximum flexibility in staffing as we wait for confirmation from the government as to our final level of funding for 2019-20,” said Shewchuk. “It also allows some affected staff the opportunity to move within the school system.”

In early April, the Wellington Catholic board announced it expects 22 teaching positions and seven support staff to be cut, though that could change depending on the number of retirements, and the Durham Region Catholic board is anticipating a $5- million budget hit.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association has expressed concerns that education funding won’t increase after next year, “creating considerable challenges for Ontario’s vibrant and distinctive education system,” president Beverley Eckensweiler said in a news release.


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Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

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