Federation of Ontario Public Libraries

This can be predicted to have an impact on public libraries as more school libraries risk having less staff support.

This is a report by the Ontario government’s Financial Accountability Office of Ontario.

“Ontario to lose more than 10,000 teaching positions over five years under Ford government changes: watchdog

Ontario will lose more than 10,000 teaching positions over the next five years under changes by the Ford government that boost class sizes and usher in mandatory online classes, says a new report by the legislature’s independent financial watchdog.

Some 994 elementary positions and 9,060 secondary that would have been needed will be gone from the education system, says the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, which looked at the impact of the changes when compared to 2018-19 and using student ratios from that year — before the bigger classes were announced — and also includes coming enrolment increases.

This year alone, there are 2,826 fewer teachers than there would have been under the previous teacher/student ratios, says the report released Thursday at Queen’s Park.

“When we analyze any program change, we always look at what we call the baseline,” said Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park. “… Really, what it means is, had there been no change to the education program, to class sizes, because of the significant population growth and enrolment growth that that would entail — if nothing had changed we would need 10,000 more teacher jobs five years out.”

The government’s estimate of 3,475 positions is based on “jobs that will be taken out of the system that currently exist. So both numbers are right, but we look at it from a different point of view because we are always comparing the change against the status quo.”

A ministry official characterized the 3,475 number as a “net” loss, given some elementary teachers will be hired where enrolment demands.

In a statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the FAO report “affirms our plan to ensure students are set up for success for the jobs of the future. We are taking action to ensure every student in Ontario receives a world-class education, with a modernized skills-focused curriculum, with an emphasis on transferable skills.”

He said Weltman “confirmed what we have been saying all along: no teacher will lose their job as a result of our class size policy. Our government’s plan is working. We are investing more than ever in student success to ensure students benefit from an inclusive, safe, and rewarding academic experience.”

But Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said “I don’t see that this government has a shred of credibility left on the education file.”

His union is in negotiations with the government — as are all education unions — with growing class sizes a key issue.

“The FAO’s numbers confirm our projections and put the lie to the government’s efforts to minimize the damage they are causing to students’ education in this province,” Bischof also said.

Last spring, the province announced it would increase class sizes by an average of one student from Grades 4 to 8 and an average of six in high school — from 22 to 28.

It is also moving to mandate four, online courses in order to graduate from high school, where classes will be an average of 35 students.

The province has said the job losses will be covered by retirements and resignations, and created a $1.6 billion attrition fund for boards to avoid layoffs.

Weltman told reporters at Queen’s Park that there is more than enough money in the attrition fund to fulfil the government’s promise.

“We said there was sufficient funding to ensure the government’s policy, which was not to lay off any teachers,” he said. “So teachers who are retiring or voluntarily leave, there is funding available to boards to support the positions until the class size change gets fully implement four years in.”

NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles said the FAO’s report is “exactly what we’ve been saying and warning since the moment this government started to announce their cuts to education.”

She called it “a massive cuts to teachers and education workers in our classrooms … This is really devastating news.”

Larger class sizes mean “10,000 fewer teachers that should have been there in our classrooms than we will see in four years,” Stiles also said.

“That to me is an extraordinary change in the way we deliver education in this province.”

The FAO report comes as the federal Liberals are trying to use cuts by Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government against Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in the Oct. 21 election.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attacks Ford every day on the campaign trail, including Thursday morning in Sudbury, while Scheer refuses to even mention the Tory premier by name.

Ontario’s Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said losing so many teaching positions “is a mistake that fails our children. The education system is under stress right now. Ford’s cuts will push public education over the edge.”

The Star recently reported on Mississauga student Omar Salman, who can’t get two the calculus and physics credits he needs to apply to the University of Waterloo’s engineering program at his high school because of teacher cutbacks.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser tweeted: “Ford’s giving our kids the short end of the stick. It’s simply wrong.”

Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association said “the government is drastically underfunding core education costs, and has grossly misrepresented the number of teaching positions that will be lost as a result of class-size increases … We continue to urge the government to make the proper investments in education to ensure all students have the opportunity to thrive.””