Class sizes and hiring rules could be in for changes under the Ford government, which has just launched consultations with education unions and trustee associations.
However, the head of Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario called the talks “concerning and disturbing.”
The government began discussions with teacher unions on Wednesday by “highlighting the $15-billion deficit, the need to reduce that deficit and … leading to potential cuts in education,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.
“Make no mistake, they are talking about removing” class-size caps in elementary school and especially for full-day kindergarten.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson said in a statement that the government is “modernizing the way we fund education in a responsible manner and we are eager to hear the innovative ideas of educators and sector partners.”
Also up for discussion is the rule known as “Regulation 274” — the bane of principals and school boards that argue they can’t hire the best fit for any position because the rules force them to choose supply teachers with the most seniority for long-term and permanent positions.
Put in place to curb nepotism and liked by the unions, it has nonetheless caused troubles for members who lose seniority as they move from board to board.
Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, struck a more conciliatory tone than his elementary counterpart, saying “We are absolutely prepared to engage in consultation with this government and can offer, as we have in the past, solutions to some outstanding problems with the hiring regulation.
“Understandably, we remain committed to protecting locally negotiated class size limits that respond to local circumstances and support student achievement as well as the staff complement that provides for excellent and unique programming around the province.”
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy