Another 155 teachers receive surplus letters as Ford deflects questions about cuts

Another 155 teachers receive surplus letters as Ford deflects questions about cuts

Just one day after hundreds of teachers in Peel Region received word that they would no longer have permanent positions come September, over 150 more in neighbouring Halton Region learned they face a similar fate, the union representing them says.

Kathy Proctor, vice president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's Halton branch, told CBC News 155 elementary school teachers received layoff notices Wednesday, with the cuts being attributed to "uncertainty over funding to the school board for next year."

Proctor said the Halton District School Board notified the union about possible cuts at the end of March. The board did not respond to inquiries from CBC News Wednesday. 

"We had hoped in vain that they would not come to pass but unfortunately today, teachers received letters of potential redundancy for September 2019," Proctor said. The Halton board, she says, is a growing one with increasing student enrolment every year. 

"In my memory of over 28 years working for the HDSB, no elementary teacher has ever lost their job due to layoffs.  Obviously, for those teachers who received letters today, this is tremendously upsetting and unsettling news," she said.

News follows minister calling cuts 'regular occurrence'

News of the letters followed a heated discussion at the Legislature, where Premier Doug Ford was asked directly about teacher cuts by NDP MP Sarah Singh, and appeared to deflect the question, choosing instead of to laud United Conservative Party premier-designate Jason Kenney's win in the Alberta election.

"I'll tell you what strengthens our education system, but even better strengthens our country, was the big win from our friend Jason Kenney yesterday. What a great ally to join the anti-carbon alliance. I'll tell you, he's going to be there, shoulder to shoulder, for everyone in the country."

A day earlier in the Legislature, Education Minister Lisa Thompson downplayed questions about teacher cuts, calling them a "regular occurrence."

"Year in and year out, school boards across this province take a look at their roster, they take a look at how many people are retiring, they take a look at how many people are coming back into the classroom from coaching ... That's what's happening right now," Thompson said, when asked by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath about the cuts. 

"This is not routine," countered Mike Bettiol, who represents Peel high school teachers for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Thompson reiterated the government line that no teacher will voluntarily "lose their job as a result of the changes in class sizes."

In a statement, Kayla Iafelice said the province is adding $1.6 billion in "attrition protection" to help manage the changes.

At least one school board, however, has concerns about whether that funding will go far enough. 

"The messaging we're receiving around what the funding is going to be doesn't match what the minister is saying about no loss of jobs," said Peel District School Board human resources superintendent Jamie Robertson.