Ontario public schools will lose about 10,000 teachers over the next five years because of increasing class sizes, according to a report by the Financial Accountability Officer issued on Thursday.
According to the report, on March 15, 2019, the province announced that funded average class sizes for secondary students would increase from 22 to 28 students per teacher, while funded average class sizes for students in grades 4 to 8 would increase from 23.84 to 24.50 students per teacher.
The province also said that the reduction in teachers is required to implement the new class size ratios and that no layoffs would be required.
The report continues to say that to support this commitment, Ontario announced $1.6 billion in temporary funding to school boards called the Teacher Job Protection Fund.
“Under this plan, the new class size ratios would be achieved in four school years, once enough teachers had retired or voluntarily left their positions,” reads the report, which also clarified that the provincial numbers were inaccurate.
The FAO said it compared the new class size targets and Teacher Job Protection Fund against the old class size targets.
In its observations, it found that in the 2019-20 school year, there will be an estimated 2,826 fewer teachers (967 elementary teachers and 1,859 secondary teachers) as a net result of the new class size targets and the Teacher Job Protection Fund.
Additionally, by the 2023-24 school year, there will be 10,054 fewer teachers (994 elementary teachers and 9,060 secondary teachers) in the education system.
The FAO estimates that this will save Doug Ford’s government $2.8 billion over the next five fiscal years, and an estimated $0.9 billion per year thereafter.
Ontario NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles said that these cuts will hurt students.
“The FAO report confirms that Doug Ford’s cuts to education will mean 10,000 fewer teachers in our classrooms. This will hurt students in every region of our province,” said Stiles.
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“Parents and educators are sounding alarm bells about the negative impact these cuts will have on our education system – damage that will only get worse as our population grows over time. It’s not too late for Doug Ford to do the right thing and reverse his deep cuts to education.”
In a statement by the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, Harvey Bischof said the Ford government is flailing in the dark when it comes to planning public education.
The government’s estimate earlier this year said that increased class sizes would result in 3,475 fewer teachers in Ontario schools by 2022-2023, which Bischof said turned out to be “an embarrassing miscalculation.”
The real number, according to the FAO, is well over 6,000 more than the government’s estimate.
“The devastating impact of that will only be exacerbated by thousands of support staff positions that will also, inevitably, be lost,” said Bischof.
“In the face of these numbers, it’s time for the Ford government and the Minister of Education to hit the reset button, abandon their current trajectory, and work with front-line educators to find a way forward that does not destroy publicly-funded education in Ontario.”