Image shows Doug Ford at a press conference smiling at the camera.

The line item, the FAO notes, which covers “funding to support the implementation of public health protocols in schools” received $702 million in 2020-21. This year, the province is budgeting $569 million in 2021-22,.

That’s a reduction of about $133 million.

At the same time, according to the report, local school boards have spent $391 million from their reserves — that is up from $244 million last year.

Fred Hahn, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario which represents custodians and other school staff, said the Ford government appears to be downloading costs for safe schools to school boards themselves.

“School boards, in order to provide the supports that students and families need, are having to use their reserves,” Hahn told PressProgress. “And it’s why some boards are tapped out and those with some reserves left are spending them now.”

“We understand the roles schools play in our communities and if there aren’t sufficient mechanisms to keep kids safe in schools that will have spillover effects not just for kids but for communities. It’s beyond comprehension that we’re talking not just about a lack of additional investments but about cuts.”

“Our members in schools and many others have been trying to point out the cuts to school budgets the Ford Conservatives have been perpetrating,” Hahn added.

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