Catholic high school and elementary teachers will soon have to pay for parking, as the school board grapples with a $32.8 million funding shortfall.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board approved the new parking fees at a special budgetary meeting Tuesday night — charging full-time teachers and administrators $10 per day to park their vehicles on school property.

Board Chair Maria Rizzo calls the measure a “new part of reality” to ensure vital student programs continue in the wake of funding cuts from the Progressive Conservative government.

“We don’t want to do it on the backs of kids and I don’t want to do it on the backs of teachers either,” Rizzo told CTV News Toronto in an interview. “But if it’s a choice between teachers and kids, my choice is easy.”

While the board is still working on the finer details — including the date of implementation and whether a third-party company would be contracted to enforce paid parking — the expectation is it would raise more than $6 million a year.

Rizzo says that money would go directly back into student learning, including adding two guidance counsellor positions and the rehiring of 24 educators who focus on literacy.

“It was a very successful program, Rizzo said. “It was running for more than two decades and there was no money for it.”

The move was met with scorn from the union representing elementary teachers in the Catholic school board, who called it a “rolling back” of teachers’ salaries.

Lisa Mastrobuono, a collective bargaining coordinator with the Elementary Teachers Federation, claimed the policy would lead to a $1,900-per-year pay cut for many teachers.

Rizzo defends the move, however, saying while it’s a “tough choice” the board had to make, it shouldn’t be seen as a “war on teachers.”

“It’s a tough decision,” Rizzo explains. “It’s kids, programs, classrooms, education, versus paid parking.”

Mary Downey, whose daughter is a teacher, believes while the board needs money there are likely others way to raise funds without cutting into educators salaries.

“She needs every penny to live on, and to ask them to pay extra for parking is excessive.”

While the TCDSB is the first board to implement such a policy, Rizzo says she doesn’t believe paid parking unfairly targets teachers.

“Is it fair to nurses when they have to pay for parking? Is it fair to people at universities — professors and custodians?”

“It’s a reality in an urban city.”