Councillor asks OCDSB to reconsider reducing funding for English as a second language

Coun. Tim Tierney is asking the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board not to cut about $200,000 in funding for English as a second language programming.

Proposed cuts would leave Syrian refugee students without necessary support, councillor says

Coun. Tim Tierney is asking the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board not to cut about $200,000 in funding for English as a second language. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

Reducing English as a second language funding would leave recently settled Syrian refugee students without necessary support, Coun. Tim Tierney told the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Monday.

"The whole goal is to have these people integrated and be part of our community," Tierney said following Monday's board meeting.

"My big fear is that we're not going to have the supports to be able to actually speak to these children."

The board is hearing public input on $9.3 million in proposed budget cuts. One of the items on the chopping block is $195,000 in funding for English as a second language teachers.

High concentration of refugees in Tierney's ward

The Donald Street area in Tierney's ward boasts the highest concentration of Syrian refugees in the city.

The number of new families is astounding, said trustee Sandra Schwartz, who added that she recently visited Carson Grove Elementary in the neighbourhood.

The OCDSB is seeking public input on proposed budget cuts as it tries to find millions in savings. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC News)

"We're talking about a school that has 300 students, and we have 100 new students. So a third of the school has just arrived," Schwartz said. 

"They do not speak English. They do not have social supports."

Tierney said he expects that number could rise to about 150 Syrian students in the fall.

OCDSB tasked with cutting 1% of budget

Given the 1,500 refugees that have now settled in Ottawa, he said second-language training is a city-wide issue.

Trustee Theresa Kavanagh acknowledged Tierney's concerns, but said the board is facing similar financial pressures as other levels of government. The province has ordered it to cut one per cent of its budget.

The budget will go to a final vote at the end of June.

Kavanagh asked Tierney if the city would consider making a joint request to the provincial and federal governments asking for additional ESL funding.

Tierney said he supports the idea.