Union warns of possible layoffs after 328 Toronto high school teachers declared surplus

The union representing Toronto’s public high school teachers is warning of possible layoffs after 328 members were declared surplus on Friday — a move it says is “a direct result” of provincial funding cuts.

“They are devastated,” said Leslie Wolfe, president of the Toronto local of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. “The teachers who are impacted are the newest teachers … and many were hired just in the last year, or year and a half, because of enrolment growth.

“One of the most infuriating things about this is that we’re actually in an enrolment growth period — the board should be hiring. It is absolutely unheard of that teachers would be told that they may not have a job in the following year when we are in a position of growth.”

The staffing process at the Toronto District School Board will continue throughout the summer, with these teachers filling vacancies left by those who, for instance, take a leave, retire or resign. But Wolfe says it’s unclear if there will be enough vacancies for everyone impacted.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said Friday that 377 high school teachers have been declared surplus to the board — but 49 have been partially placed in a position, which leaves the remaining 328 teachers without placement.

“As we’ve said previously, we anticipate that most will be placed by the end of the summer and into the beginning of the school year,” said Ryan.

Wolfe says provincial funding cuts, which have left the TDSB with a $67 million budget shortfall, are the reason for the surplus notices.

When asked about the union’s warning of possible layoffs, a spokesperson for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said surplus notices happen every year.

“It is the school boards who make the staffing decisions, not the unions,” said Stephanie Rea. “We have also already heard from school boards who, after issuing surplus notices, have not had to lay off any teachers at all.”

The TDSB, the country’s largest school board, has about 246,000 students in 582 schools and employs about 22,800 permanent and occasional teachers, with more than 7,000 at the high school level.

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

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