BlackburnNews.com File Photo of the Thames Valley District School Board office.

Provincial cuts to cost TVDSB 300 teaching positions

The Thames Valley District School Board is predicting a loss of more than 300 full-time teaching positions over the next four years due to funding cuts made by the Ford government.

According to a draft report released Tuesday, changes to class sizes will result in the loss of 270 full-time equivalent positions at the high school level and 38 full-time equivalent positions at the elementary level.

Under the provincial changes announced in March, the average class size for Grades 9 to 12 would go from 22 to 28, while the average class size for Grades 4 to 8 would be upped to 24.5, from 23.84. The Progressive Conservative government is also making it a requirement for secondary school students to take four courses online. Once fully implemented in four years, the proposed changes would reduce the board’s base teacher funding by approximately $17 million, school board officials have previously said.

At this point, the board anticipates no teacher will be laid off as it is confident the reductions can be achieved through retirements. However, the head of the union representing secondary school teachers within Thames Valley is warning the staffing reduction will undoubtedly hurt students.

“Job loss whether through attrition or through retirements is still job loss,” said Lisa McMaster, president of District 11 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. “When you consider 300 full-time teachers being removed from the system, each teacher teaching six courses we are looking at 1,800 classes that are not being offered in Thames Valley over the next four years. We are talking about changes to programs that we offer, specialized programs.”

The government is offering school boards a limited amount of funding to help with the phase-in of the proposed new class sizes. Despite that, 42 full-time equivalent teaching positions within the board that were “deemed necessary to allow students to have access to classes already chosen” before the education changes were announced remain unfunded by the ministry.

“The decision of the board to fund an additional 40 plus position in an attempt to honour collective agreements and to continue offering programs is a very short term solution,” said McMaster. “I don’t know how it would be sustainable over time. Forty positions could be close to $4 million. I don’t know a board that would have that extra money available to them from year-to-year.”

McMaster noted the union is dedicated to protecting public education in the province and will be continuing to lobby the Ontario government to reverse course regarding these changes to class sizes.

Last month, Board Chair Arlene Morell sent a three-page letter to Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson, saying the education changes would have negative repercussions for students, particularly those in rural schools.

The draft report, which was meant as a “high-level review” of changes to next school year’s grants for student needs, will be reviewed by the school board’s planning and priorities advisory committee.