Increased high school class sizes could lead to loss of 800 teachers, TDSB memo estimates
Published Monday, March 18, 2019 10:14AM EDT Last Updated Monday, March 18, 2019 2:40PM EDT
The Ford government’s new plan to bump up high school class sizes could lead to the loss of approximately 800 high school teaching jobs in Toronto, according to a new document sent to Toronto District School Board trustees.
The memo, which was obtained by CTV News Toronto, suggests sweeping changes to staffing both at the grade school and high school levels.
On Friday, the province announced that it would increase high school class sizes from 22 students per teacher to 28 students. Grades 4 to 8 will see the addition of just one student, bringing average class sizes to 24.5. Cap sizes for kindergarten and primary grades are not being changed.
The TDSB expects the changes will lead to 216 fewer teachers in Grades 4 to 8, and a reduction of approximately 800 teachers between Grades 9 and 12.
“The numbers look very shocking,” TDSB chair Robin Pilkey told CTV News Toronto.
“We’re concerned particularly around the high schools. For our secondary schools this is a lot of teachers. We have 5,100 current teachers, so 800 teachers is about 16 per cent of our teachers, so that would be a big deal.”
Education Minister Lisa Thompson said that the government’s new plan will help eliminate nearly one per cent of the $25 billion education budget within the first year the changes are implemented.
As a result, Thompson said, funding for school operations would be “adjusted.”
However, the minister stressed that “not one” teaching job would be lost due to the changes and that any staff reductions would only be a result of retirement, resignation or other attrition.
At Queen’s Park on Monday, Thompson said consultations are planned “over the coming weeks” between the ministry and school boards about the impending changes.
“We’re looking forward to hearing from them directly in regards to how many retirements they’re going to have, how many redeployments, resignations, etc.,” she said. “At this time, I can tell you that we’re looking forward to working with school boards to identify the number but our number one priority always will be that learning environment in the classroom.”
The lifting of class size caps was one of a number of changes outlined in the government’s new education plan. It includes new details on the controversial sex-ed program, a revised math curriculum, and changes to credit requirements with an emphasis on e-learning.
The TDSB memo also laid out possible funding changes to several departments, including Early Childhood Education (ECE). While ECE staffing is not expected to change, the TDSB estimates the Ford government’s new plan will see the program lose approximately $7.9 million in funding.
The TDSB calculated the estimates based on information provided Friday by the Education Minister and noted that the numbers are “extremely preliminary.”
Over the weekend, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) asked educators across the province to wear black on Monday to protest the cuts.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) urged teachers and parents alike to email their MPPs to contest the Ford government’s plan.
“Instead of cuts and uncertainty, the ON gov’t should invest in children and schools,” ETFO tweeted on Saturday.
NDP education critic Marit Stiles suggested the cuts will have a waterfall effect on the quality of education students receive.
“When I hear the Minster of Education say that there will be no job losses or that it will happen through retirement or attrition, at the end of the day, if one of those positions is not filled that’s one more class that won’t have enough one-on-one attention. Those are students who will not be listened to, who will not have an opportunity that they should be given in class,” Stiles said on Monday.
“As we’re seeing increasingly, the government will be moving to more on-line courses without again that professional educator in the room to help our students. It’s going in absolutely the wrong direction.”
Pilkey expressed similar concerns, noting that the amount of choices teachers have for their students may dwindle.
“I would be concerned that removing the number of high school teachers and increasing class sizes in such a way will limit choice students have,” she said. “The expectation that they will be given the attention they need from their teacher… It’s going to be very difficult and we don’t know how it’s going to look at this point.”