Not one teacher will lose his/her job. That is what voters were told by candidate Doug Ford in the 2018 provincial election. Less than a year later, school boards across Ontario are seeing a higher-than-normal number of teachers being given notice at the end of the school year, that their position is redundant. In some boards, teachers with over 10 years of experience have been impacted: in other boards, more than half of all teachers employed have been given notice.
Redundancy notices are a normal part of the unionized teaching system and are a mechanism for redistributing teaching resources based on enrolment: however, there usually are not this many notices issued. Coupled with the planned increase to class sizes, and reductions in amount of funding per student school boards currently receive, such extensive disruption has not been seen since school boards were amalgamated 21 years ago. It would be foolish to believe that the government can reduce per-student funding for students, increase class sizes, and not incur job losses. These changes by the Ford government will impact jobs. In so doing, they will further impact the quality of education of students in Ontario schools, regardless of which one of the four publicly funded systems students attend.
While acknowledging that the previous government left the province in a financial hole, does this mean that front-line services be cut to balance the books? Are there no other places where budgets can be cut or stretched without directly impacting the classroom? Yes there are. Can this government and our boards accept the challenge of finding them?
The mantra of amalgamation 21 years ago was intended to reduce the number of people filling board offices. How has that worked out? Do school boards really need that many superintendents or principals working in the board office? In one local board, those senior administration positions cost over $2.3 million alone. Are there no administration areas where the same tasks could be done at less cost?
Education minister Lisa Thompson has said that Ontarians should not panic about the changes, and that the government will “get it right”. That is rather difficult to believe when many of those who are in government in 2019, in 2016 were the same ones picketing to keep Ontario schools open. Any cuts to education should not reduce the quality of education available to Ontario students. Start the cutting at the top. Leave the kids in classrooms alone.