(Toronto & York Region Labour Council) Doug Ford needs to step up and fund our schools

TORONTO, June 20, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ahead of the Toronto District School Board’s final budget meeting on Wednesday afternoon, concerned Ontarians issued a rallying cry to Premier Ford: Stop the Cuts and Fund Our Schools. 

Since Premier Ford took office in 2018 he and former Minister for Education Stephen Lecce have cut school budgets by $1,500 per student per year. For the last six years this has forced school boards across the province to exhaust their reserve funds especially during the pandemic. Faced with extreme shortfalls in funding, trustees have been tasked with the impossible - cut essential services and resources to balance the budget. 

“I have seen how chronic under-funding has hurt our schools year after year. And now I have to go inside to talk about more cuts to balance the budgets,” said Neethan Shan, Ward 17 Trustee for the Toronto District School Board said. 

Toronto’s Catholic school board is facing a $60 plus million dollar deficit for the 2024-2025 school year and the public school board is facing a $26.5 million dollar deficit - and that’s after implementing tens-of-millions in reductions since 2019. 

“How are we, as trustees, supposed to balance the budget when there’s been $1500 per student cut every year since 2018? What services, what resources, what infrastructure should we cut to balance the budget? Less funding means less resources for students and for our teachers and staff. They’re trying to hold everything together with less,” Maria Rizzo, Ward 5 Trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said. 

Fed up with the cuts and fearing the possibility of more, education workers, school board trustees, students, parents and advocacy groups stood together at 5050 Yonge St to urge trustees to push back and press for the province to pay their fair share. 

John Weatherup, President of Toronto Education Workers, CUPE 4400 said he sees the impact these cuts are having on education workers and students. “At a time when more resources need to be spent to help students recover socially, mentally and emotionally from the pandemic, there are actually less - less lunchroom supervisors, less caretakers, less adult educators, and less caring adults in our school buildings.” 

“Stephen Lecce has said that ‘underfunding’ is a Toronto problem; I want to tell you that Lecce is a liar, Todd Smith will be a liar just like Mike Harris was a liar,” Weatherup continued.

And it’s not just a Toronto issue - the York Catholic District School Board, for example, is facing a $19 million dollar deficit. 

“This level of deficit will impact not only today’s students and education workers, but the generations to come. Premier Ford is gutting our publicly funded education system, and staff and students are paying the price,” Mike Totten, York OECTA President said. 

The lack of funding especially hurts kids with special needs. Sandra Huh, Director at the  Ontario Autism Coalition and co-chair of York Communities for Public Education works with families across the province advocating for access to resources. 

“Autistic kids are getting left behind because Doug Ford’s Ontario is not a place for kids with special needs. The resources available in schools are becoming harder to access while resources available out of school are increasingly non-existent due to a waitlist that is years long. It’s heartbreaking to see my sweet kid and many like him not getting the support they need and deserve,” Huh said. 

The Fund Our Schools campaign is a coalition of teachers, education workers, and supporters calling attention to the terrible conditions in Ontario’s schools and fighting for better working and learning conditions. The fight goes beyond Wednesday’s rally and will continue until Ontario’s schools are properly funded.  

“What we really need, though, is to talk about investing in our schools. What we need to do collectively is to organize and get out in front of every MPP’s office across the province and to tell them, ‘no more cuts to education,’” Shan said.

Media Contact:
Jennifer Huang
Executive Assistant, Toronto & York Region Labour Council
Phone: 416 886 4082
Email: jhuang@labourcouncil.ca

About Toronto & York Region Labour Council:
The Toronto & York Region Labour Council represents over 200,000 workers from diverse sectors across the Toronto region. Committed to fighting for economic, social, racial and climate justice, the Council works tirelessly to create a fair and equitable future for all. Find out more about the Fund Our Schools campaign here: Fund Our Schools

About Elementary Teachers of Toronto:
The Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) is a Local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). With over 11,000 members, it is the largest teachers’ Local in Canada.

About Toronto Education Workers Local 4400:
Toronto Education Workers/Local 4400 is made up of approximately 12,000 Education Workers who primarily work within the Toronto District School Board; Childcare Workers from various Childcare Centres and Caretakers from Viamonde French Board. Representing over 400 Job Classifications, and over 1,000 Worksites.

About OSSTF Toronto:
The OSSTF Toronto Teachers' Bargaining Unit represents secondary school teachers in high schools, adult day schools, alternative schools and programs, centrally assigned positions, and summer and night schools in the Toronto District School Board.

About OECTA York Region:
As York Region’s local unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), York Catholic Teachers represents more than 4,000 members in both elementary and secondary schools of the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) teaching and serving approximately 55,000 students from junior kindergarten through to grade 12 in 90 elementary and 16 secondary schools in communities across York Region.

About TECT:
The Toronto Elementary Catholic Teacher’s (TECT) represents more than 4,000 elementary teachers who work in the Toronto Catholic District School Board and is the largest unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA). Our members are teachers of students in all grades and subjects from Kindergarten to Grade eight throughout the city of Toronto.

About TSU:
The Toronto Secondary Unit (TSU) of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association serves over 2,500 permanent and occasional teachers employed in the Secondary Panel of the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
TSU is the official voice of Catholic Secondary School teachers employed in the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

About the Ontario Autism Coalition:
Formed in 2005, the Ontario Autism Coalition is a province-wide organization with over 21,000 supporters. The OAC’s mission is to secure life-long, permanent, scientifically-supported, government-funded therapy, treatment, and services for individuals with autism and their families.