Over 370 Ontario Teachers Told They Will Not Have Permanent Positions Amid Class Size Changes

By Margaret Wollensak, The Epoch Times
April 17, 2019 Updated: April 17, 2019

TORONTO—An Ontario school board has informed nearly 370 teachers that they will no longer have permanent teaching positions in the coming 2019-2020 school year—news that comes amid provincial changes to class sizes.

The Peel District School Board gave surplus notices to 176 elementary and 193 secondary teachers on Tuesday, according to The Globe and Mail. Surplus notices, which are not layoff notices, indicate the number of “extra” positions for the next year.

The cuts are a result of “changes to class sizes, cuts in local priorities funding, and other reductions in funding,” Carla Pereira, Peel District School Board’s director of communications, told CBC.

The Ontario government announced last month that class sizes for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year would increase for elementary and secondary school students. High school classes would increase from 22 to 28 students on average while grades 4 through 8 would increase from 23.84 to 24.5 on average.

There were no proposed changes for kindergarten students or those in primary grades 1 through 3.

At the time of the announcement, Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson said “not one teacher would lose their job” over the class size increases, and that teaching positions would only be lost through attrition—when teachers quit or retire but are not replaced. Transitional funds would be made available to school boards to ensure that.

A recent Ministry of Education memo said an estimated 3,475 teaching positions would be eliminated across the province by 2022-2023 through attrition resulting from the changes to class sizes, according to CBC, and the total savings from removing those full-time positions would be $851 million.

The ministry said it is planning to introduce “attrition protection” funding to top-up school boards where the change in teachers exceeds leave from attrition and voluntary leave. The government is hoping the attrition protection, which will be in place for four years, will be enough for school boards to phase in the class size changes without requiring teacher layoffs.

However, Jamie Robertson, Peel board’s superintendent of human-resources support services, told the Globe and Mail that layoffs will likely be inevitable as the funding won’t be enough to make up for the budget shortfall. He also said the attrition protection doesn’t apply to elementary school teachers.

Other school boards have also commented on the issue.

According to CBC, Lynn Scott, the chair of the Ottawa District School Board, said the board hopes not to have to lay off teachers in the coming school year.

“We will certainly find it a little more challenging to organize some of our classes, but how that works out is going to depend on what the rest of our funding looks like,” she said at board meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

Ottawa District School Board staff told trustees Tuesday night that the class size changes would leave them with between 250 to 300 fewer high school teaching positions, as well as 10 to 20 fewer elementary school teachers, CBC reports; however, Scott said those numbers are a worst-case scenario.

The board expects to spend $972 million this year, reports the Ottawa Citizen. The class-size changes will result in $22.4 million less funding by year five, when the changes are fully implemented, according to board budget documents.

On Monday, the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board handed out 42 surplus notices, and the head of the teachers union said there likely will be layoffs, according to CHCH, a local Hamilton news organization.

The Toronto District School Board has previously said it expects 200 elementary school positions and 800 secondary school positions to be reduced due to class size changes.

The government has faced fierce criticism over its decision to increase class sizes, as well as some other education changes it has implemented. Thousands of teachers, students, and others rallied at Queens Park earlier this month to protest the changes.