TORONTO – With the close of the school year upon us, the union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario warns of widespread cuts looming in the province’s schools. CUPE has been analyzing school board budgets as they have been passed this spring, and a portrait has started to emerge of the impact of changes to the province’s education funding formula.
“As boards complete their budgets and data starts to come in, we are seeing what kind of impact cuts in the funding formula will have for students, and it looks serious,” said Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s central bargaining committee, representing education workers in school boards across all four systems (English public and Catholic, French public and Catholic). “Cuts like these will have real consequences for kids. Cuts like these will deeply affect schools’ abilities to run smoothly and meet student needs.”
Four case studies:
Toronto District Catholic School Board: 30 educational assistants (EAs) and seven child and youth workers will be cut in the coming year. The TDCSB will experience a reduction in its special education grant resulting from an overall redistribution of special education funds, as well as an overall reduction to its “grants for student needs” allocation. The TDCSB says it will run a surplus of $3.7 million, and yet is cutting positions vital to students’ educational needs and wellbeing.
North Bay and region: the Near North District School Board will eliminate eight custodial positions as a result of reductions to the board’s operations allocation. The board will also lay off the equivalent of 4.5 school office positions. Cuts like these have a greater impact in remote and rural boards, which cover areas that are spread out over a large geographical area.
London District Catholic School Board: 45 positions will be eliminated, as a result of reduction in overall allocation of funds. These include the equivalents of 24 secretarial positions, five maintenance positions, and more than a dozen early childhood educators.
Niagara District Catholic School Board: special education funding will be slashed, and the board will eliminate 26 EAs and eight credit recovery assistants (who provide assistance to at-risk students). In addition, cuts to hours of work of school office staff and library technicians will mean the elimination of the equivalent of five office staff and four library workers.
Recent changes to the education funding formula have meant a redistribution of the “high needs” portion of the special education grant. In practice this will mean that for the coming school year, 38 school boards across Ontario will receive less special education funding than they did for the current year, despite the fact that demand for supports has continued to increase over the last many years.
“Other changes to the funding formula – like eliminating top-ups for operating school facilities - will curtail support for schools that are deemed to be operating at less than full capacity,” said Preston. “This is highly controversial in many communities. In particular, we and many parents fear that school closures in rural or northern communities will mean kids spend far longer on busses each day.”
As school boards complete their budgets for 2015-2016 and more data becomes available, CUPE will update our analysis on the impact of cuts.
“We anticipate a sharp increase in the number of school closures in the upcoming year and beyond, and we anticipate further permanent layoffs,” said Preston. “CUPE has been calling for a comprehensive review of the funding formula for years. The early evidence for the upcoming school year makes that review more urgent than ever.”
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