Ontario’s Education Minister wants the province’s 72 school boards to freeze all hiring for the upcoming school year, according to a memo sent Thursday.

The memo obtained by CTV News Toronto asks school board directors to “defer the annual processes of filling vacancies for retirements and other leaves related to teachers and other staff,” until Minister Lisa Thompson makes an announcement on March 15.

In the meantime, the Ministry says school boards should think about implementing a hiring freeze similar to that announced shortly after the Ford government took office in June 2018.

“As you are aware, in June 2018 the Ontario government implemented a hiring freeze. School boards may wish to institute similar measures.”

NDP education critic Marit Stiles says there is no way this directive won’t reduce the number of teachers in the system for the upcoming school year.

“Teachers and education workers leave, they retire, they go on parental leaves every year, so a freeze on those jobs is not a freeze, it is a cut,” she said.

The memo, signed by Deputy Education Minister Nancy Naylor, says the caution should be taken in light of recent consultations and the arrival of Ford’s first provincial budget.

“I am writing to you today to recommend that school boards exercise prudence in making hiring decisions in light of the upcoming Ontario Budget and the recent consultation on class size and hiring practices.”

Toronto District School Board Chair Robin Pilkey told CP24 she thinks the order indicates the ministry is preparing to change class size caps.

Stiles said the reference to the next budget indicates cuts may be coming.

“It’s pretty clear to me that if they do not want them hiring now and they want a hiring freeze, then there are cuts coming.”

At the end of 2018, the school system employed 143,000 teachers, administrators and early childhood educators.

Minister Thompson's office responded Friday afternoon, saying the order was part of a broad effort to review spending in the education system.

"We need to take a hard look at how school boards spend their money and make sure every single dollar invested in our education system, is a dollar invested in a student’s future."