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TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario school boards will be in the throes of a widespread financial crisis by the end of the current school year, a data report released today has found. With too little provincial money to meet basic operating costs and to respond to local needs, school boards province-wide will be faced with the only option available to them to meet balanced budget legislation in 2007-2008: massive program and staff cuts.

The impacts on the quality of students’ education and on labour force stability will be tremendous, warn public education advocates releasing the data. They pinpoint the structural flaws in the education funding formula that create a continuous cycle of cuts and the Ontario Liberals’ unwillingness to fix the formula for fueling the boards’ financial crisis.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) data report was released today at a Toronto media conference that included the Campaign for Public Education (CPE), CUPE 4400, and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Researcher Hugh MacKenzie. The findings show that, for 2006-2007, school boards cut programs and staff, and raided reserve funds to make up for at least a $290 million shortfall between provincial funding and what boards actually needed to maintain programs.

The data shows that, out of the 55 school boards where budget information was available, at least 34 of them used reserves to balance budgets, and at least 8 depleted their reserves. With little or no funding reserves left, school boards will be forced to make radical cuts to balance 2007-2008 budgets.

The data also tracks how many school boards achieved balanced budgets this year primarily by cutting hundreds of support staff, including special education assistants, lunchroom supervisors, library technicians, custodians and secretaries.

Education support workers help students succeed in a multitude of ways, but the McGuinty Liberals apparently don’t value them enough to fix a funding formula that disproportionately promotes job cuts among custodial, secretarial, trades, special education assistants, and tech and library workers. This government needs to be clear that CUPE’s school board members will mobilize. And the Liberals will pay at the polls in 2007,” said CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan.

In addition to using reserves and cutting staff, some school boards have closed schools, cut computer programs, and deferred needed facility maintenance to balance budgets.

Core expenses at schools are not indexed to inflation, so every year, as the cost of utilities and maintenance rise, Trustees are forced to make program cuts to pay the bills. No matter how much they cut one year, Trustees will be forced to make more cuts in the next year, or the year after,” said CUPE’s Chris Glover.

The media conference was held in conjunction with an emergency meeting of the leadership of CUPE’s school board sector in Toronto today where an aggressive action plan to mount pressure on the Ontario Liberals to fix the education funding formula was approved.

To download a copy of the data, go to: http://www.cupe.on.ca/

For more information contact:

Sid Ryan
President, CUPE Ontario
(416) 209-0066

Chris Glover
Campaign for Public Education
(416) 588-4386

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774