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Ford Government Memo Warns of $1.6 Billion in Education Cuts and Plans to Layoff Thousands of Frontline Workers

Memo suggests thousands of principals, teachers, early child educators, custodians and other staff could receive ‘redundancy notices’

A memo sent by Doug Ford’s deputy education minister is warning school boards to prepare for up to $1.6 billion in cuts to education by September 2021.

And, the memo says, the cuts will see the Ford government issue “redundancy notices” to Ontario teachers and education workers, potentially eliminating thousands of jobs across the province.

In the memo, titled “2021-22 School Year,” Deputy Minister Nancy Naylor acknowledges the “extraordinary steps” educators have taken to support students during the pandemic, but emphasizes that the Ford government will be cutting $1.6 billion in “temporary” funding.

“Over the last year, we have witnessed the extraordinary steps that school boards and their staff have taken to safely support the learning journey for Ontario students in what continues to be unprecedented and uncertain times. These steps were possible by the government making available over $1.6 billion in temporary resources to support the safe reopening of schools, with a plan that was designed in consultation with medical authorities in the province.”

Ministry of Education

That funding, the memo states, allowed boards to hire “over 7,000” staff in order to meet basic health and safety protocols.

However, the jobs identified for going up on the chopping block appear to go beyond “temporary” health and safety functions.

The memo identifies “principals and vice-principals, teachers, educational assistants, mental health workers, early childhood educators, professional/paraprofessional staff, custodians and other staff” as positions that could soon be deemed redundant.

As the memo explains, school boards planning for the 2021-22 school year should be prepared for layoffs:

As a result of collective agreement requirements to make staffing decisions now, it is understandable that school boards may issue more than the typical number of redundancy notices to its staff this winter/spring.

Teachers and education critics have called Ford’s plans to fire frontline workers callous and negligent, given schools will still be grappling with the impacts of COVID-19 into the next school year.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation President Harvey Bischof told PressProgress “Coming out of this pandemic period, we’re going to have students whose needs are greater and who need more support.”

“The idea that, coming out of these lockdowns, they’re going to have fewer staff in schools rather than more flies in the face of what’s needed to do our best for kids who’ve suffered during this pandemic,” Bischof said.

Prior to the pandemic, Ford’s government was waging an aggressive labour battle with the province’s teachers over plans to raise class sizes and lay off thousands of educators.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PressProgress.

 

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PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

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