TORONTO, ON – The aftermath of Premier Doug Ford’s 2023 brutal budget is looking grim for students, their families, and frontline workers across the province.
With school boards already warning of layoffs because they’re underfunded, the provincial government has used an accounting trick to hide a real cut in public school funding for 2023-24.
The new cut in Budget 2023 deepens the hole this Conservative government tossed public school students into when it previously cut education funding by at least $800 per pupil during its first term in office. With two million students attending Ontario’s schools, that amounted to a $1.6 billion cut in funding in the 2021-2022 school year alone – money that should have been used to improve supports for students and hire the workers needed to provide those supports.
As frontline education workers gather for their annual convention in Toronto starting today, CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) is calling on Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and Premier Doug Ford to amend their budget – or at least accept amendments that may be proposed by opposition MPPs – to significantly increase funding for education and provide transparency in how the ministry of education budget is allocated between school boards and childcare.
“On Thursday, the Ford government declared they’re done with the pandemic and moving on to even harsher cuts,” warned Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU). “Students and workers are left worse off by the Ford government yet again and it doesn’t have to be this way because Premier Ford has the power and the resources to fund our children’s education properly. He just chooses to make billionaires even more needlessly rich instead.”
“There’s nothing in Doug Ford’s brutal budget to guarantee that all students who need the support of an educational assistant will get it,” said Walton. “Nothing to guarantee high cleaning standards in schools. Nothing to guarantee a Designated Early Childhood Educator in every kindergarten classroom. There is nothing in Ford’s bombshell budget on staffing period – and with the disappearance of COVID-19 related funding, all of the jobs the education minister claimed to have created will be gone.”
“As a mom, I’m concerned for our kids who will keep attending schools that are still in dire need of repair, will be unable to access the supports they need to be successful and will struggle, unheard, with mental health issues,” Walton concluded. “It’s beyond disappointing that Premier Ford and Stephen Lecce are still okay with pretending they’re not responsible. As parents and workers, we demand better.”
- The “7,000” education workers Stephen Lecce claims to have been responsible for hiring since 2020 were 6966.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs created with temporary COVID-19 pandemic related funds in fiscal year 2020-21.
- Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s often repeated “7,000” number wasn’t even honest. When comparing 2017-18, the last fiscal year before the Ford government took power, to 2021-22, the net new jobs created in public schools was a time-limited 5,941.3 FTE. And that included teachers, vice-principals, principals – not just frontline education workers.
- Many, if not most, of those jobs were created with school boards’ own reserve money – not funding from this government.
- There are 4,800 schools throughout Ontario. If it were true, Lecce’s “7,000” number is only 1.45 education worker per school on average – not nearly enough to provide the supports children need, and parents expect to be provided, in our public schools.
- 55,000 CUPE-OSBCU members work in virtually every job classification in education except for teaching and management. The contributions of every single one of these frontline workers is necessary to students’ success and chronic underfunding, leading to understaffing, threatens academic outcomes and kids’ entire educational experience.
The Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) unites 55,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who work in the English, French, and Catholic public schools throughout Canada’s largest and wealthiest province. OSBCU frontline education workers are educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians and caretakers, administrative assistants and secretaries, library technicians, tradespeople, child and youth workers, instructors, nutrition service workers, audio-visual technologists, school safety monitors, information technology staff, social workers, and more.