TDSB votes to cut 430 education assistant positions
Published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 10:17PM EDT
The Toronto District School Board has voted to cut 430 education assistant positions, but those who lose their jobs will have the option to be retrained as early childhood educators.
The decision came Wednesday evening as the school board struggles to meet an estimated $82-million budget shortfall.
The motion will save an estimated $21-22 million.
Due to an agreement reached between the Ministry of Education and the union representing the education assistants, the workers who are laid off will have three options.
They can take a severance package, or apply for other positions within the board, as per normal protocol. A third option will allow education assistants to retrain through a part-time program at Humber College and eventually move into newly created early childhood educator positions that will come up as full-day kindergarten is rolled out across the province.
The staff will be kept on in kindergarten classes as teaching assistants as they retrain.
A problem with this plan, board chair Chris Bolton said, is that the support staff will be only in kindergarten classes.
"That really does bring up what to do with some of our special needs students who are in other parts of the school," Bolton told CP24 after the meeting.
Before the vote, Trustee John Hastings said that it would be foolish to vote against the cuts and the proposed retraining plan.
"I think this is a one-time offer and I think if we don't grab it that we're moving down the roadway to supervision," he said.
By law, the Toronto District School Board must balance its budget. If it does not, it will be put under supervision by the province.
Some trustees, however, said they would rather face supervision than vote in favour of the staff cuts.
"If the government insists on making these cuts, let them do it themselves," said Trustee Howard Kaplan.
The education assistant positions that will be cut are unique to Toronto and do not exist in other school board across the province.
But, Toronto shouldn't be treated like other school boards in the province, argued Kaplan, noting that the big city comes with a diverse population and unique education challenges.
However, Trustee Howard Goodman pointed out that if these cuts were not made, it would mean even more money would have to be cut from the central budget, which includes human resources, payroll and legal advice.
"That, I believe, will cripple our schools," Goodman said.