Ford government proposes reduced class size increase to stave off job action

Oct 25 2019, 7:10 am

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the provincial government is moving forward with increasing class sizes, but not by as much as initially proposed.

The provincial government will now scale the average class sizes back to 25 from the initial 28 that was proposed months ago.

However, this new proposed number is still higher than the previously funded average of 22.5 students per class that was set this September.

“I remain mission-focused on ensuring students stay in class, receiving a world-class education,” said Lecce in a statement.

“Last week I said that all options were on the table when it came reaching a deal, and keeping kids in class. To that end, and to ensure we keep kids in class, I have instructed my negotiating team to give a proposal to OSSTF that includes reducing the funded average high school class size from 28 students to 25 students,” said Lecce.

Moreover, Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) said this increase will still cause a number of challenges for students.

“The smaller average increase in class size we saw in September (22 to approximately 22.5) led to significant challenges for students and school boards, and we expect that the situation will only get worse if it were to move to 25:1.”

As the funded average class size increases, a school’s ability to continue to offer courses with smaller class sizes will be diminished, said the OPSBA in a statement.

Schools will either have to cancel courses or, in order to retain them, combine courses together into larger classes, resulting in less suitable support for students.

“With fewer program options, students are forced to take courses they didn’t choose, which reduces motivation and engagement,” said Abraham.

“For example, a student interested in the skilled trades will have a very limited opportunity to explore various options within the technology subject areas. This is even more of an issue in rural, remote and northern school settings.” 

NDP MPP Marit Stiles (Davenport), blasted Lecce’s proposal on Twitter, saying the new class size will be “even worse” for students.

“Sometimes I think the Minister needs to go back to school to learn how education funding and policy works in this province,” said Stiles. 

Yet, despite the backlash, Lecce says he believes his proposal is a “reasonable offer.”

However, Lecce said he’s disappointed the OSSTF has decided to ignore it and move closer to job action.

“My team is ready to continue meeting to negotiate a deal that is focused on our students, ensures our children remain in class, and provides the predictability our parents deserve,” said Lecce.

“We continue to call on all parties to reach a deal in good faith, as soon as possible, to provide confidence and predictability to parents, students, and educators alike.”