369 Peel teachers learn they won’t have permanent spots in September

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More than 360 teachers with the Peel District School Board have learned they will no longer have permanent positions heading into the new school year.

The board’s director of communications confirmed to CBC News that 176 elementary and 193 secondary teachers were informed about the change Tuesday — amid an attempt by Education Minister Lisa Thompson to downplay the cuts as “an annual exercise.”

The cuts are the result of “changes to class sizes, cuts in local priorities funding and other reductions in funding,” Carla Pereira said.

The tone from the president of the union representing secondary school teachers, however, was much more pointed.

“This is not routine,” Mike Bettiol of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s District 19 said in a statement.

‘Entirely the government’s fault’

“In fact, secondary has not had any surplus teachers since 2013 … and then it was 40 teachers. The layoffs are all due to budget cuts and entirely the government’s fault.”

Bettiol didn’t mince words about the impact of the layoffs in the classroom either, saying classes will see higher caps and that offerings with lower enrolments will have to be cancelled as a result. 

“Students will experience more crowding and less choice,” he said.

I have to tell them tomorrow that I no longer work for not only our school but our board.– Melissa Basta

Melissa Basta was among the secondary school teachers who received notice that they wouldn’t have a permanent position come September.

It came in the form of a letter from the board telling her she was identified as “surplus.”

Basta had worried about something like this happening. For the last week, she says, she watched as teachers at other boards received similar notices.

“I spent the weekend worrying,” she told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning after sharing the bad news on Twitter.

Her worries aren’t only about whether she’ll have work as a teacher. Batsa specializes in working with students at risk and with special needs, and has formed a deep connection with many of them. 

“I’m very passionate about what I do and the thought of not being able to do that is quite, quite heartbreaking,” she said, her voice breaking.

“I have to tell them tomorrow that I no longer work for not only our school but our board.”

Opposition, education minister square off in Legislature

Asked about the cuts in the Legislature Tuesday, Thompson accused the opposition, Andrea Horwath’s NDP, of playing politics and “perpetuating fear.”

“The Ford government’s cuts in our classrooms continue to erode the quality of our children’s education,” Horwath said at Queen’s Park.

“Year in and year out, school boards across this province take a look at their roster, they take a look at how many people are retiring, they take a look at how many people are coming back into the classroom from coaching … That’s what’s happening right now,” Thompson countered. 

“This is a regular occurrence,” she said. 

News of the cuts comes less than two weeks after a memo obtained by CBC Toronto revealed the province plans to cut 3,475 full-time teaching positions over the next four years — resulting in a savings of $851 million. 

The memo, which was sent by the Ministry of Education to school board administrators, also clarifies that the positions will be shed through attrition — meaning teachers that quit or retire and are not replaced — as well as changing student enrolment numbers and bumped-up class sizes. 

Fears of job losses and larger class sizes have dogged Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government since March, when the province unveiled its education plan.

369 Peel teachers learn they won't have permanent spots in September

Asked about the cuts in the legislature Tuesday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson accused the NDP of playing politics and ‘perpetuating fear.’ (Ontario Parliament/CBC)

Thompson has said no teacher in Ontario will “involuntarily” lose their job.

Also on Tuesday, Ford made no secret of his position on teachers’ unions, saying they’d “declared war on” the PCs even before they formed government.

The premier made the remarks at an announcement in Markham, Ont., where he expressed frustration over the fact that provincial teaching contracts are set to expire August 31, right before the start of the school year — something he said will never happen again under his government. 

‘Not a single teacher will lose their job’

Ford also warned the teachers’ unions not to try to strike.

Thompson, meanwhile, took a more reserved approach, saying while she respects the premier, she also respects the “consultation process and the importance of making sure we have good faith conversations with our labour partners and our education partners.”

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Thompson reiterated her position.

“As we have said from the beginning, not a single teacher will lose their job as a result of the changes in class sizes,”  Kayla Iafelice said, adding that the province is providing $1.6 billion in “attrition protection” to help manage the changes. 

Speaking on Metro Morning, the superintendent of human resources with the PDSB Jamie Robertson said he’s looking forward to the province to make good on that commitment.

“I definitely am looking to the government to deliver on that promise,” Robertson said.

For now though, he remains skeptical.

“The messaging we’re receiving around what the funding is going to be doesn’t match what the minister is saying about no loss of jobs.” 

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