Concerned community members join UCDSB education workers to protest cuts in services for children with special needs  

BROCKVILLE, ON – A determined group of friends, some of whom have grandchildren attending Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) schools, are backing the board’s education workers in their efforts to protect frontline jobs and services from swingeing cuts.

And although the group supports all workers fighting to protect the services they provide in UCDSB schools, its members are particularly appalled at the proposed cuts to the hours that educational assistants spend helping children with special needs.

Along with educational assistants (EAs), custodians and maintenance workers, building specialists and school office administrators find their jobs on the chopping block, thanks to recommendations in the preliminary deliberation report from UCDSB’s Finance department.

UCDSB trustees will debate the report at their next meeting on Wednesday, May 25.

“It’s morally wrong to expect children and frontline workers to bear the brunt of cuts in schools,” said Ernie Guillemin, a resident of Riceville and a retired firefighter.

A few weeks ago, a group of friends began discussing the proposed UCDSBcuts, although Guillemin noted that, until recently, “education isn’t something I paid a lot of attention to. But I’ve been disillusioned in this last little while. These are our tax dollars, and they’re not being spent the way we’d anticipate they should be.”

“Since we started talking about the cuts, I’ve spoken to a lot of people and looked up a lot of information, and it’s plain that educational assistants are the best bargains the school board has,” he continued.

“Children with high needs depend on them to achieve their potential and get the most out of their education. At the same time, EAs free up teachers to teach, and they allow the rest of the students to learn with fewer distractions.

“It’s terrible to think that trustees would put the education of children in jeopardy. What is the board thinking of, when it talks about cutting these workers’ hours?  We have to speak out.”

Sue Hanson, president of CUPE 5678, said she and her fellow education workers were deeply grateful for the group’s backing. She also pointed out that the jobs in greatest danger from the proposed cuts are among the lowest paid and most precarious jobs in the school system. In addition, most of the jobs recommended for cuts are also predominantly carried out by women.

“Many of the workers whose jobs are under threat are those on the front lines: running breakfast programs, giving homework help, supervising pupils in library, on yard duty, monitoring lunchrooms. They are the backbone of the school; it’s unconscionable that the trustees are targeting them for cuts,” said Hanson.

CUPE, along with Ernie Guillemin and his friends, are encouraging parents, grandparents, friends and other family members to contact their trustees to demand other solutions for plugging the board’s deficit.

Guillemin himself is hoping to make the two-hour drive to attend the trustees’ meeting next Wednesday, accompanied by a friend whose grandchild is a special needs student in a UCDSB school.

“Every year, we experience the same thing,” said Hanson. “The UCDSB has an operating deficit, they claim declining enrolment, they blame the provincial government for underfunding. Then, to make up the shortfall, they target for cuts the very programs that help the most vulnerable children.

“But the trustees have options, including joint lobbying with CUPE for additional funding from the province for special education needs, and a real review of how best to tackle the board’s deficit. But no choice should focus so exclusively on the vital support that children need,” she concluded.

For more information, please contact:

Mary Unan, CUPE Communications, 647-390-9839