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Special needs students who rely on highly qualified and experienced educational assistants (EAs) will lose those specialized services if the Durham School Board proceeds with their plan to cut 19 EA positions, warns the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
“Who will provide the quality care and assistance these dedicated EAs have been delivering for the past ten years?” asked Don Bryans, president of CUPE 218. “Eliminating these highly specialized positions means that special needs students, their parents and the entire school community will suffer needlessly. This board should be enhancing educational services, not trying to dismantle them.”
CUPE 218 represents over 2,500 school board workers at the Durham District School Board. There are 893 EAs of which 78 are highly specialized and further qualified (known as EA 2s) providing care to special needs students in elementary and high schools in Durham. The board is planning to cut 19 EA 2 positions by September, and possibly 27 more next year.
“EA 2s are highly qualified professionals with special expertise and experience in assisting students with complex needs, requiring high level attention,” said Marion Moore, EA and CUPE 218 unit chair. “The board has not explained who, if anyone, will replace the 19 EA 2s, nor have they said how they plan to take care of special needs students who require constant, direct educational assistance.”
The EA 2s recently went through a job evaluation process that recognized their skills and experience to be at a higher level than what they were being paid. The evaluation process was completed by April, and all of the EA 2s received a wage increase to reflect the skills and requirements of their work.
“We believe the board is targeting the EA 2s because they successfully completed a job evaluation process that showed they were not being paid fairly,” said Bryans. “They got their raise in April and a month later they are being told their positions will be cut in the fall. The timing of the cutbacks will not only bring devastation for special needs students, but could also be seen as a signal from the board to discourage other workers from pursuing job evaluation.”
“This board must explain their decision to the parents of students who will lose these services,” said Moore. “We are urging parents to express their concerns to the board, to press them to reinstate the EAs that help their children every day.”
CUPE 218 members will attend the school board’s finance committee meeting on Tuesday evening, June 3, to express their outrage at the cuts and urge school board trustees to reject plans that will hurt the quality of education in Durham. The board plans to finalize their budget plans, including the elimination of 19 EA 2 positions, at the June 10 school board meeting.
For further information, please contact:
Don Bryans, CUPE 218 President, 905-571-7879
Marion Moore, EA and CUPE 218 Unit Chair, 905-571-7879
Betty Sommers, CUPE National Representative, 905-433-4760
James Chai, CUPE Communications, 416-292-3999