A local union fears changes to education funding could end up costing 200 high-school teachers their jobs over the next four years.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), District 17, representing educators in Simcoe County, said teachers won’t learn their fate until April 25.
However, after the Upper Grand District School Board issued layoff notices to 54 elementary school teachers last month, the local OSSTF is “expecting the same sort of numbers, if not worse,” for the secondary school teachers it represents, said Jen Hare, president of District 17’s teachers bargaining unit.
The board was able to do “quite a bit of hiring” recently thanks to enrolment numbers, she said, but added that means many will be at risk.
She said educators put in an average of 10 years of long-term occasional teaching before being hired full-time
“Anyone (with) under a year of experience has no guarantee of employment after June of this year,” she said. “Our worst-case scenario is that Simcoe County will lose more than 200 teachers over four years.”
The province has said it will increase the average class size, from 22 to 28 students for high schools. That change could result in class sizes increasing to around 40. Class sizes are included in collective agreements, though, and any changes would have to be approved by the teachers.
The current collective agreement with teachers represented by OSSTF’s District 17 expires in August.
What the government did was announce changes to teacher funding, Hare explained, noting the new funding will be for one teacher for every 28 students.
Hare said that will lead to fewer opportunities for students, as there will be fewer teachers to provide certain courses and extracurricular activities.
“We’re devastated for our teachers, but, more importantly, we’re devastated for our students,” she said.
Hare is also concerned about the effect the changes will have on special-needs an “at-risk” students.
“Our board is really great at supporting our at-risk students. It’s the relationship with the teachers that supports and engages those students.”
Thousands of high-school students across the province are expected to walk out of class Thursday to protest the changes, and Hare wishes them well.
“Any opportunity for students to use their voice is important. I believe in the power of that voice,” she said. “They’re the ones who are going to be impacted.”
How many elementary school teachers will be affected is not yet known.
Janet Bigham, president of the Simcoe County chapter of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said that information might come Monday at the end of the day.
Bigham was not prepared to comment further until ETFO members were notified.
As layoffs loom, the Simcoe County District School Board is “still trying to get details from the Ministry (of Education),” said board chair Jodi Lloyd.
“As a board, we’ve learned about (some of the education announcements) through press releases and the media,” she said. “The current communication we’re receiving is not excellent. There’s not a lot of direct communication with boards. We need the details.”
Officials with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association could not be reached for comment Wednesday.