Union official believes ‘there will be an immediate recall’ of teachers declared redundant
The true impact of the Ontario government’s latest funding announcement for school boards won’t be known until more information is received, Near North District School Board education director Jackie Young says.
The province announced Friday that boards will receive $24.66 billion in Grants for Student Needs (GSN) funding for 2019-20, with funding per pupil expected to be $12,246.
Overall funding will increase slightly from the current $24.53 billion, but per-pupil funding will be lower than the $12,300 received this year.
The news comes in the midst of growing concern about the effect that the GSN could have on teaching positions.
In a statement, Young said the board is waiting for further information, including the 2019-20 Education Funding Technical Paper, before developing its annual budget.
“Until this information is available and analysis is complete, any comment on funding, allocation or impact would be therefore speculative in nature,” she said.
The province plans to provide boards with $1.6 billion in funding for attrition protection in order to prevent teachers from being laid off due to class size and e-learning changes.
The Ontario government announced last month that high school class sizes would increase from an average of 22 students to 28 over four years, and by one student per classroom for grades 4 to 8.
Meanwhile, students will need to complete four courses through e-learning.
“Our government is taking a responsible approach to balancing the budget that restores confidence in Ontario’s finances, while protecting what matters most, our world-class health care and education systems,” Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in a media release.
Teachers unions have been waiting for the province to release its GSN numbers, which provide the majority of funding for school boards and are normally shared in March, officials say.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation announced this week that roughly half of the Near North board’s 240 secondary school teachers — 121 — were declared redundant by the board, which District 4 president Glen Hodgson said should be rescinded.
“It seems unusual, but now that they have the funding why have they not recalled every single one of those teachers? So that is my clear expectation, that there will be an immediate recall.”
Although the school board only shared the projected surplus numbers to the union as part of their collective agreement, Hodgson said never in the past have they received anything close to the number that was cited, or this late in the year.
“And I can guarantee you it has never happened before. This is not normal.”
Near North Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario president Rob Hammond said he too is waiting for more information on the impact of the GSN.
Hammond has said previously that he is bracing for more cuts next year, with upwards of 40 kindergarten positions possibly being lost and between nine and 28 of the 474 elementary teachers in Near North being cut.
Nipissing Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli has stated that there will be no change in class sizes from kindergarten to Grade 3.
But had the GSN been released in March, Hammond said none of the boards would have been put in the awkward position they eventually found themselves in.
“So the Ministry of Education failed to tell the school boards what their budgets looked like,” he said. “The school boards had an obligation to speculate on what the layoffs would be like and then inform the unions.”
A media release from the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) said it is reviewing the impacts of the GSN, but continues to have strong concerns about the proposed increase to secondary class sizes, as well as mandatory e-learning.
OPSBA president Cathy Abraham said they are recommending the government take a second look at the changes during its ongoing consultation process, adding that reducing the number of “caring adults” in schools will lead to a loss of programming.
“While we note that the new Attrition Protection Allocation will help ensure no front-line educators lose their jobs as a result of the proposed changes, significantly increasing class size averages from 22 to 28 and requiring secondary students to take four courses online will have a dramatic effect on both students and staff in secondary schools across Ontario.”
With files from The Canadian Press