Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's plan to increase class sizes, scrap a pay raise for teachers and slash nearly 10,000 support staff jobs from Ontario's education system "would be setting us back more than a decade," says the head of the Waterloo Region chapter of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
"The cuts that Mr. Hudak is talking about making to education would impact on all students in the system, but I think what's really troubling is that they would affect the students that have the most needs," Greg Weiler told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Thursday.
"The removal of the non-teaching staff, they work almost exclusively with the kids with the most special needs, and that would be setting us back more than a decade," he said.
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However, the Tories counter that Ontario's education system needs reform, claiming Ontario taxpayers are putting more money into the system than ever before, while serving fewer students.
"We not only want to protect public education, we want to enhance public education," Rob Leone, the Conservative MPP for Cambridge said on The Morning Edition Thursday.
"There's too much bureaucracy. It's built up so much that it's constraining the teachers' ability to teach and we want to unlock that," he said. "The whole point of our plan is that we deliver a quality education and that student success actually goes up and not down."
Specific measures detailed
The PC platform announced Wednesday details several measures to save money in education, including moves to:
- Increase classroom sizes by 2-3 students.
- Increase the ratio for full-day kindergarten to one teacher for every 20 students, from the current ratio of two teachers per 26 students.
- Cancel a planned raise for elementary teachers in the public school boards.
- Cut 9,700 non-teaching positions in schools — on top of the 100,000 public sector jobs.
- End a 30 per cent tuition grant for post-secondary students.
- Eliminate proposed raises for early childhood educators and personal support workers for students with special needs.
The cost-saving measures in education constitute a major plank of the PC plan to achieve a small surplus in 2016, which is then projected to grow to $4 billion by 2017. Once that is accomplished, the PC plan calls for income tax cuts of up to 10 per cent as well as corporate tax cuts.
But Weiler called the Progressive Conservatives' focus on dollars "lazy."
He accused the Hudak of pitting Ontarians against well paid public servants for the sake of political gain.
"We're not talking about what the real issues are in education and what can we do together to solve them," he said.
"It always seems to be finger pointing. 'Look at this, these people have too much,' or 'these people have more than you.'"
"It's not really focused on a real solution that would make things better for everyone," he said.