One hundred and eight Toronto public high school teachers have been laid off and another 47 have seen their hours cut, their union says.
And the union is blaming those losses on provincial education cuts.
“There simply isn’t the funding to ensure everyone who had a job last year is back at work,” Leslie Wolfe, president of the Toronto local of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said of the numbers which were released on Tuesday, the first day of school.
“Add these layoffs to the teaching positions that were lost through attrition and the result is some 1,700 fewer classes for students to take, and hundreds of fewer adults to work with students,” she said in a written statement.
Earlier Tuesday, the union representing 55,000 support staff in the province’s public schools warned that families will notice cutbacks — given custodians, school office staff and education assistants positions have all been hit. The Toronto public board alone axed almost 300 such staff members.
All education contracts expired at the end of August and no deals have been reached.
For the Canadian Union of Public Employees, job security has emerged as one of the key issues.
“All parties need to come (to the bargaining table) willing to work together,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s school boards council, and that’s not happening.
“They have their line in the sand,” she said. “… We are seeing a lot of concessions.”
She said CUPE is “fighting to ensure the level of service is maintained, and increased. What we are seeing from across the table is an erosion of that service security.”
CUPE, which is considering job action, is holding strike votes across the province over the next two weeks.
In a statement to the Star, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said “with the school year beginning, it is important that parents, students and educators have predictability. We continue to call on all parties to reach a deal as soon as possible to provide predictability and confidence to parents, students, and educators alike.”
The government, he added, “will continue to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a deal that makes sure students remain in class.”
Lecce also said he expects that more teachers will be recalled in the coming weeks.
The Ford government has created a $1.6 billion “attrition fund” to be spent over four years to help boards manage the move to bigger classes, which in high school are to jump from an average of 22 students to 28. The fund covers teachers only, not support staff.
In total, the government expects to shed about 3,500 teaching positions through retirements and resignations and has pledged that no teacher will involuntarily lose their job.
However, critics have said the fund does not ensure that, and the Toronto board and others have said previous cutbacks to grants are also leading to job losses.
Not all boards have laid off staff — including Durham, Toronto Catholic and the York public boards in the GTA.
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Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, has said that in total one-quarter of high school teaching positions will be lost.
Wolfe accused Lecce of trying “to blame the school board for this, but let’s be clear: School boards can only hire the staff they’ve been funded for by the provincial government. Without the appropriate funding, people get fired and programs for students suffer.”
NDP education critic Marit Stiles said “this is just year one of four years of planned cuts, so while we are going to see things this year like fewer science classes and fewer tech classes and fewer options for our students, we can expect to see things get even worse” in the years to come.