TORONTO – A vote tonight on cutting special education supports at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) highlights a province-wide funding crisis facing our schools. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario is calling on the Minister of Education to take immediate steps to fix the funding formula and prevent cuts that will harm at-risk students.
“Schools are already struggling to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities and developmental disabilities. It is simply unfair to take away more supports,” said Terri Preston, chair of the Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee (OSBCC), representing 55,000 CUPE education workers in the province. “When local boards are having to eliminate staff in order to balance the books, you know the funding formula is deeply flawed.”
Tonight, the TDSB will vote on a $4.5 million plan to cut hundreds of staff, including 61 special education jobs and nearly 100 English as a second language instructors, as well as secretaries and more than 200 teachers.
“Every day, we hear from parents who have spent years fighting to have their kids assessed, then years more fighting for supports in their schools,” said Preston. “In each school, there are students with physical disabilities who need help, students with developmental disabilities who need a lot of one-on-one assistance, and dozens of students with learning disabilities who need more attention than the average. With so little available, schools are forced to make choices that leave some of those students behind.”
CUPE Ontario is calling on the province to fix the funding formula and provide for the needs of students and families in our communities.
“Our schools never recovered from the massive cuts under Mike Harris, and new programs have been added that aren’t fully funded by the province. As a result, class sizes are growing, maintenance budgets have been slashed and students with special needs are being ignored,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
“We already hear from parents about classes at the junior level with more than 35 students in them, many with learning disabilities and behavioural challenges. These cuts mean that such a class could lose what little time they may have with an educational assistant as that person is reassigned to a more urgent need,” said Hahn.
Cuts at the TDSB are not unique. The Toronto Catholic District School Board is likewise contemplating deep cuts, to student supervisors, child and youth workers, teacher-librarians, literacy instructors and special education staff.
“Every study shows that investing in education is good for our kids, good for our economy, and good for our society,” said Hahn. “The experience at both these boards indicates the need for a review and overhaul of the funding formula.”
CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with members providing quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.
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