The contempt that the Ford government has shown to children with autism and their parents now extends to all children in Ontario’s public education system, said representatives of CUPE in the wake of today’s news of a province-wide school board hiring freeze.

The union warns that such a freeze makes it impossible for school boards to provide adequate resources for students in the coming school year.

“Now parents know that, from next September, the government plans to have fewer educational assistants to support their children and more students waitlisted for help. Fewer custodians, which will leave schools dirtier and in a worse state of repair. Fewer library workers, meaning students will miss out on a vital aspect of their introduction to reading. Fewer speech pathologists, child and youth workers, psychologists and social workers to provide the early assessments and interventions for students with special needs,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, which represents 55,000 education workers across the province.

Ontario schools have suffered from years of underfunding, but measures such as the hiring freeze will make a bad situation worse.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn charged Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson with “presiding over the deliberate decline of Ontario’s public education system by starving students of the support they and their families need. The help simply will not be there for vulnerable children.”

Hahn also pointed out: “Making children and families bear the brunt of cuts is bad enough, but small, rural and northern communities will also lose good jobs. Young people, those returning to the workforce, graduates who trained to work in education – they are all out of luck.”

A 4 percent across-the-board cut for all ministries – promised in Doug Ford’s election campaign and reiterated in the government’s 2019-20 Education Funding consultation – translates into a cut of more than $1 billion for the province’s education system.

But CUPE warned that the size of the cut could increase if the Ford government chooses to make smaller cuts to other sectors, like health care. It has already slashed $100 million for repairs to schools, withheld the Parents Reaching Out grants from school boards, and cut $25 million in program funding for young people.

“CUPE members will fight to ensure the right of all children to receive a high-quality public education in Ontario, with all the supports, resources and people they need to succeed,” concluded Walton.