Ottawa

Ottawa teachers head to Queen's Park to protest expected cuts

Hundreds of Ottawa school teachers and staff are busing to Toronto to join colleagues from around the province at a rally at Queen's Park Saturday to protest expected job cuts. 

Hundreds of local teachers and staff travel to Toronto to join province-wide rally

Ottawa EFTO president, Elizabeth Kettle is getting ready for a protest at Queen's Park in Toronto that will include hundreds of teachers and staff from Ottawa, who plan to get their by bus Saturday morning.

Hundreds of Ottawa school teachers and staff are busing to Toronto to join colleagues from around the province at a rally at Queen's Park Saturday to protest expected job cuts. 

The planned protest comes a day after school boards received a memo from the Ministry of Education anticipating the elimination of 3,475 teaching jobs over the next four years. The province hopes to save $851 million by eliminating the positions.

"If you need savings, you don't do it on the backs of children," said Elizabeth Kettle, Ottawa's local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

Kettle said that teachers have been bracing for bad news since the Progressive Conservative government announced sweeping changes to classroom sizes in mid-March. 

Kettle said six buses will leave Ottawa for Toronto before sunrise on Saturday morning, which she expects to be packed

"We thought, 'Oh dear, we probably should have ordered more buses,'" she said.

Teachers were out in force to complain about the Ford government's cuts to education (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

Boards still trying to assess cuts

Education Minister Lisa Thompson had promised no teacher would lose their job despite raising the cap on average class sizes in both elementary and secondary schools. 

This week's memo to school boards suggests the job cuts would come through attrition — mostly retirements — over the next four years. 

The memo also anticipates a drop in province-wide enrolment, even though Ottawa school boards have seen an overall increase in enrolment in recent years.

A budget document on staffing from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) from March 5 states: "The last few years have seen larger than normal increases in actual vs. projected enrolment at the elementary level, resulting in more classes being added in the fall."

OCDSB could cut 40 teaching jobs 

The same document from the OCDSB reported that raising class sizes at elementary schools could result in the elimination of dozens of positions by September.  

An increase of just a single student in the average class size in Grades 4 to 8 "would result in a reduction of at least 40 FTE [full-time equivalent] classroom teacher positions based on current enrolment," according to the report.  

The report precedes the minister's announcement of the class size increases, but OCDSB spokesperson Sharlene Hunter wrote in an email that, "The budget projections remain accurate." 

However, the board's staffing document said that provincial policy changes on classroom sizes at the secondary school level would be trumped by the local collective agreement with teachers, and that "the number of basic classroom positions generated may not be directly impacted by a government decision to change the average class size."

The OCDSB and the Ottawa Catholic School Board both confirm receiving the latest memo from the province, but spokespeople say the funding formula is complex and both will need time to assess what the impact on staffing could look like in local schools.

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