Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he’s “open” to ideas from school boards and teacher unions to stop class sizes from rising to 28 students over the next four years as Premier Doug Ford’s government tries to find $250 million in cost savings.
“We should not be dogmatic about this,” Lecce said in Scarborough, calling for “innovative ideas” as the government negotiates with teacher unions on new contracts to replace ones that expire at the end of August.
“I am open to those ideas,” Lecce, who was appointed minister in a late June cabinet shuffle, told reporters.
But he cautioned any solutions must align with the Progressive Conservative government’s “fiscal realities” as it works to eliminate annual deficits.
The government has faced heavy criticism from parents, students and school boards over the plan to increase class sizes in Grades 4 to 12 because of concerns it will limit course offerings, particularly in specialty programs, and impact after-school activities because there will be fewer teachers to run them.
Lecce said average class sizes will rise just slightly this September to an average of about 22.5 students from 22 last year.
He was greeted at Thursday’s news conference by 14 demonstrators — led by former PC leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen and chanting “Doug Ford lies” — who were protesting Wednesday’s decision to keep much of the previous Liberal government’s sex education curriculum in place.
At Queen’s Park, former premier Kathleen Wynne blasted the Ford government for “creating a crisis” around sex education.
“It was rooted in lies about a hidden agenda,” Wynne said of her Progressive Conservative successor’s use of the issue.
“Now they’ve been caught out and they’re reinstating a curriculum that was based in science and based on community input,” she said.
“The opposition to sex education is rooted in homophobia. People like Charles McVety and Tanya Granic Allen have hid behind religion,” said Wynne, Canada’s first openly gay premier, of two prominent social conservatives who backed Ford last year.
McVety continues to support the premier.
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