Close to 2K jobs lost so far, says teacher tracking Ontario education cuts

Ontario's Education Minister Lisa Thompson continues to say not one job will be lost due to class size increases. But a teacher in Brantford, Ont. who has been tracking all of the cuts across the province says the number is closer to 2,000. 

Grade 5 teacher Andrew Campbell has been tracking education cuts board-by-board

Kathy Proctor, vice president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's Halton branch, told CBC News 155 elementary school teachers received layoff notices April 17, with the cuts being attributed to "uncertainty over funding to the school board for next year." (Brenna Owen/CBC)
Ontario's education minister continues to say that not one job will be lost due to cuts in education but a teacher in Brantford, Ont. who has been tracking cuts across the province says the number is closer to 2,000.

Ontario's Education Minister Lisa Thompson continues to say not one job will be lost due to class size increases. But a teacher in Brantford, Ont. who has been tracking all of the cuts across the province says the number is closer to 2,000. 

On Tuesday, the public school board in Hamilton announced that 99 jobs will be lost. More than 360 teachers with the Peel District School Board, in the Toronto area, have learned they will no longer have permanent positions.

It's happening all across the province. Grade 5 teacher Andrew Campbell has been tracking the cuts board-by-board. He says almost 2,000 teachers job cuts have been announced and there are more to come. You can read his full report on the cuts at this link.

Campbell is a teacher at Major Ballachey Public School in Brantford. He spoke with the CBC's Conrad Collaco. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above.   

Andrew Campbell, Grade 5 teacher

Andrew Campbell is a Grade 5 teacher at Major Ballachey Public School in Brantford, Ont. (Andrew Campbell)

What made you want to track the cuts to education across the province?

There's a real dichotomy in how we deal with education in the province. For the past 25 years or so, a lot of the major financial decisions are made centrally at the provincial level but how those decisions are implemented is all done at the local level by school board trustees, the people who are elected to those positions in local communities.

It seems to me that if we want to see the full scope of the impact of this stuff across the province — all those things are distributed across the, 76 I think it is, school boards. I wanted to provide a place where we could collect all those things together so people could get a full picture.

The other dynamic at work here is that there are lots of families that are caught up in this and it's a very anxious time to try to find out how the changes are going to impact them. The information is not always easy to come by. Every board has a different process with different time lines. Some boards are announcing things and in other boards nobody knows what's happening.

It seemed to me, if people could see what was happening in other jurisdictions it might help them plan better and it might help them know what the future held for them a little bit more. 

What did you find is happening across the province? 

The changes are reaching into every corner. Yesterday was a typical day. Local people will send me things. Yesterday there were stories about 250 teachers receiving redundancy notices. That's 250 teachers who were on permanent contracts and were told they don't have permanent contracts for next year.

A hundred of those were in Hamilton and another hundred in eastern Ontario and another 50 up in Sudbury. This is stuff that is happening right across the province.

When I add them all up we're pretty close to 2,000 teachers now that have been told they don't have a permanent contract right across the province and there are still lots of school boards that we haven't heard from yet. That number's going up.

The education minister says the redundancy notices are normal at this time of year. What do you say to that?

It's a partial truth. Going through the staffing process and declaring some teachers redundant because the school no longer needs them is a process that boards, especially those in areas with lowering enrolment, will go through periodically. What is different is the scale and the number of boards having to do this.

A good example is the Halton District School Board. They've given redundancy notices to over 250 teachers. There's probably going to be more and that's a school board that hadn't declared a teacher redundant for over 25 years because their enrolment has been growing.

Peel has declared over 300 teachers redundant. The last time they declared any teachers redundant was five years ago and then it was 42. So, it's boards that have never done it before or haven't done this in a long time but it's also the scale. The numbers of teachers.

What has the atmosphere, under the threat of these cuts, been like at your school in Brantford?      

It's not good. The first thought is for the teachers who are impacted directly. These are colleagues. These are beloved members of staff.

These are teachers that students care about and are looking forward to working with next year and they are not going to be there. To become a teacher who gets a permanent contract now is a seven, eight, nine, ten year journey costing between $60,000 and $100,000 dollars.

For those people to get to that point and then be told that's no longer the case and, probable for the next four years they are going to be reduced to occasional work or part-time, it's awful. People are rallying around to try to support those people and make sure they know they are valued and need to keep going. 

How will these cuts change the quality of education for elementary and high school students? 

The changes in the primary and elementary areas are not significant. There's been a slight change in the junior division by an extra student per teacher. That's just for this year. We know this is a four year process.

Of particular concern is what may happen to the full day kindergarten program where the minister has been particularly slippery with language. Right now the biggest impacts are in high school. Superficially, if you haven't been through the process, going from 22 students per teacher to 28 students seems like 'we'll just pad in an extra six to every class.' But, the impacts are much more profound because of the way the staffing works.

There are some courses that schools will offer that only a small number of students will take. Think of a Grade 12 arts course that somebody might need if they were going on to study music in university or maybe a college level math course that someone might need before entering a trade school.

Those courses might have 10 or 12 students but that's now 14 students below what the ministry is requiring. So, those students now have to be distributed across the other classes pushing the other classes up from 28 to 30, 32. Some classes cannot go that high. A class in auto-tech is kept to a certain level for safety reasons. 

We've already got classes that are 33 or 34 because of that dynamic. Adding six students will push them up to 40 which is crazy.

The other thing that will happen is that a lot of those courses that are smaller will be eliminated. Schools just simply won't be able to afford to offer them. We've already seen stories in Peel where students are being forced to go back and re-select their courses for next year because a lot of the elective courses they wanted to take, because they have an interest in something, are no longer available.

They've got to re-plan their year because of the cuts to education funding. It's going to make schools a very different place. There's much less range for what students can do.

Do students and parents understand the impact of the cuts you've just described?

You saw the student walk-out. I think, generally, students are becoming aware.

The stories coming out of these assemblies in schools where students are being told that they have to give up on certain courses tells us those students are certainly feeling the impact. The government is trying to reduce these issues down to sound bites and they are actually very complicated and difficult issues.

We in the education community need to do a better job at trying to help parents and students and families and citizens, generally, understand that it's not simply a matter of adding six students. These are going to have significant impacts on the lives of our students and that has long-term implications for our province. 


Conrad Collaco is a CBC News producer for CBC Hamilton with extensive experience in online, television and radio news. Follow him on Twitter at @ConradCollaco, or email him at conrad.collaco@cbc.ca.