Ford government advises school boards to freeze hiring

Ford government advises school boards to freeze hiring

Ontario school boards have been told to hold off on all hiring for the next school year until further notice, according to an education ministry memo obtained by the Star.

“I am writing to you today to recommend that school boards exercise prudence in making hiring decisions in light of the upcoming Ontario budget and the recent consultation on class size and hiring practices,” says the Thursday memo from Nancy Naylor, deputy minister of education.

“The government will be carefully reviewing the feedback received in the coming weeks and will continue to engage boards and labour partners on any plans and next steps.

“School boards are advised to defer the annual processes of filling vacancies for retirements and other leaves related to teachers and other staff until the minister of education provides and update to the sector on or before March 15.”

Naylor also notes that “in June 2018, the Ontario government implemented a hiring freeze.

She also says the ministry will help boards with planning once budgets and policy changes have been released.

School boards have been bracing for bad budget news since the election of the Ford government, given the premier said repeatedly during the election that he wanted to find 4 per cent in efficiencies in government spending.

The government has also recently asked trustee associations and education unions to weigh in on class sizes and caps, full-day kindergarten staffing as well as a controversial hiring rule that forces principals to choose from the most senior supply teachers for long-term contracts and full-time positions.

In an interview earlier this week to discuss how boards are worried about changes made by the province to autism services that will affect schools, the head of the school boards’ association said the boards are worried, not only about funding to provide therapy for those students, but also about overall education grants for the next school year.

“The (education grants) are coming out at the end of March or early April, and we have already been told — we’ve been given broad hints — that we will be asked to find efficiencies,” said Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario School Boards’ Association.

“And then this,” she said.

She was referring to the need for more resources come April 1 when students with autism are expected to seek services in the schools as some will see their provincially funded services scaled back.

“How are we going to make it all work?”

As for the coming cuts, Abraham said “they haven’t told us anything specific; we keep hearing we are expected to find efficiencies.

“My guess is it’s not going to be any different for us than anyone else.”

The province spends about $25 billion on elementary and post-secondary education annually.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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