TORONTO — Ontario’s new education minister, Kathleen Wynne, has experience as a parent activist and trustee that could make a difference to the province’s schools, says the union representing more than 45,000 education workers. She replaces former minister Sandra Pupatello.
“Wynne will be better able to appreciate the tough job local trustees have in defending public education in their communities,” said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. “After all, as she’s had first-hand experience in coping with an inflexible education funding formula that fails to meet the needs of large urban school boards, not to mention northern and rural boards.”
“Our preliminary research suggests a province-wide shortfall of at least $300 million for 2006-07. School boards are coping with the funding shortages by laying off staff, gutting programs and depleting reserve funds,” added Frank Ventresca, chair of the Ontario school boards coordinating committee (OSBCC). CUPE and the OSBCC have been pointing out the shortfalls for support staff in the funding formula since it was first designed, he said.
Because of an artificial distinction between “classroom/non-classroom” funding and a lack of clear funding lines for support staff positions, support staff workers have borne the brunt of funding shortages in the education system.
“Every one of our members has been affected,” said Ventresca. “Educational assistants and library techs across the province have had hours of work reduced in recent years. More and more now they are being asked to supervise students so that teachers can use their negotiated preparation time.”
Budgets for secretaries, computer techs, and administrative staff have been stretched to the limit, he said. Facility maintenance has been postponed to the point where many schools are in poor shape and cuts to custodial staff have led to decreasing standards in cleanliness and safety.
“We look forward to meeting with the new minister at the earliest opportunity to discuss our concerns,” Ventresca said. “The previous minister never met with us, despite repeated requests, and no-one from the government attended our annual conference last spring in Hamilton.”
“This appointment brings the potential for a new, positive relationship between this government and vital education support staff,” said Ryan.
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President, CUPE Ontario,