Ottawa

OCDSB aims for 'status quo' despite provincial education cuts

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board staff recommendations for the 2019-20 budget aim to maintain the "status quo" through provincial budget cuts.

Ottawa's largest public board to eliminate 20 full-time positions at high schools in 2019-20

Mike Carson, chief financial officer of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, says the 2019-2020 budget is aiming to keep services ahead of anticipated cuts from the Ontario government. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Staff at Ottawa's public school board are recommending a budget for 2019-2020 that will try to balance out the effects of the Ontario government's changes to school funding.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) staff will present their budget recommendations to trustees tonight.

"We're trying to have, as much as possible, a status quo approach for 2019-2020. But the report does identify that there are still significant funding cuts to come," said Mike Carson, chief financial officer for the OCDSB.

The board will look to eliminate 20 full-time equivalent teaching positions from secondary schools because the province cut "program enhancement funding."

"That allowed us to provide up to about 120 extra classes across the high school system, in order to make sure that courses were available to kids in their schools even if they may not have been fully subscribed," Carson said.

That may mean some courses are only offered in one semester or create other scheduling challenges, he said.

Up to $6M gap

The province is increasing the average high school class size from 22 to 28 students, providing funding to allow for teachers to leave their positions through attrition.

However, Carson said that funding is not enough for the Ottawa board, which is also bound by the class sizes stipulated in its collective agreements.

He said this has created a hole in the budget of between $4 and $6 million.

Staff reports say the OCDSB is still bound to the class size standards in its collective agreements, creating a gap between the funding provided by the Ontario government based on larger class sizes and its contractual obligations. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Carson said some teaching positions have been added for the coming school year because of increased enrolment and changing needs.

The province is also eliminating the local priorities funding budget this year, which funds 87 full-time equivalent teaching and support positions.

While this OCDSB budget doesn't eliminate those positions, there may be more drastic changes next year, Carson said.

He said staff have also revised estimates for snow clearing and salary changes

Warning on class size increases

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board approved sending feedback to the province about the class size increases. 

The full implementation of the increase in class sizes over four years will lead to a reduction of 300 secondary school teaching positions and the elimination of 1,800 classes, according to a report from the OCDSB advocacy strategy committee.

The report said the province should exempt technology and specialty courses from the new class size average because they may require smaller class sizes due to lack of equipment or for safety reasons.

The report also said administrators may have difficulty offering courses such as advanced physics or chemistry, which have low enrolment despite being post-secondary prerequisites.

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