Fedeli fires back at teacher unions

North Bay Nugget

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli Postmedia File Photo

Nipissing Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli is calling recent comments about the possible loss of kindergarten and elementary school teachers “the height of irresponsibility.”

In a statement provided by a provincial spokesman, Fedeli said the government confirmed more than a month ago that there will be no change in class sizes between kindergarten and Grade 3, with no change to kindergarten “period.”

His statement comes after Near North Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president Rob Hammond said the union is bracing for more cuts next year, with as many as 40 or more kindergarten positions possibly being lost to the Near North District School Board and early childhood educators running classes instead.

An estimated two to six per cent of Near North’s 474 elementary teachers, or nine to 28 positions, also may be cut.

“These comments are the height of irresponsibility, and only serve to unnecessarily stoke fear in the community,” Fedeli said, adding that the government has confirmed on multiple occasions that school boards will receive their Grants for Student Needs (GSN) information before the end of the month.

ETFO and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation are waiting for the province to release the GSN, which provides the majority of funding for Ontario’s 72 school boards.

Earlier this week, OSSTF District 4 president Glen Hodgson blamed the Ontario government’s budget cuts for 121 teaching positions, or approximately half of the Near North board’s 240 secondary school teachers, being declared redundant.

But Fedeli fired back at those accusations, as well.

“Again, let me be clear — the 2019 budget confirms education funding is increasing by $700 million this year. We’ve also stated repeatedly that our plan will see not a single teacher lose their job as a result of class size changes,” Fedeli stated.

“We are committed to protecting what matters most, including our world-class health care and education systems.”

Hammond, meanwhile, said the provincial government knows full well that the GSN should have been given to all school boards in March.

“Minister Fedeli has not done his homework. In fact, he is delinquent in doing his homework,” he said.

Hammond said the numbers cited in The Nugget’s story were leaked not by the local ETFO executive, but by someone else.

He added that the Near North District School Board is required under collective agreement to provide those projections and that the union would not have released those numbers until members were notified about possible job surpluses, first through a redundancy letter and then by administration.

Hammond also said the provincial government was creating an atmosphere of “fear and chaos” by not having the proper numbers ready so school boards can do their jobs.

“And to me it’s a clear indication that this government does not respect collective agreements, and that’s clearly evident by not having the GNS prepared and ready to go so the school boards can give the unions an accurate account of what their surpluses will be.”

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