Global News has obtained a memo informing approximately 1,000 high school teachers in Toronto their positions have been declared surplus.
While the notification does not necessarily mean all notified will be laid off, it could indicate higher than usual job losses later this year. The figure is also significantly larger than previous annual surplus numbers.
Last year only 274 full time equivalent high school teaching positions in Toronto were intially declared surplus. In 2014-15, at the end of a substantial decline in enrolment, 535 high school teachers were deemed surplus.
The memo was sent out by Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Toronto President Leslie Wolfe Friday evening. In the letter she wrote, “To the 1000 or so OSSTF Toronto Teacher Bargaining Unit Members who were declared surplus today, know that together we will continue the fight for your jobs.”
On Monday, the Ford government told Global News surplus notices “are part of the regular annual school board process per local collective agreements.”
“These notices let teachers know that their current position may not exist next year. This does not necessarily mean that there will be job loss, but that the position may be shuffled into a different area of need within the school board,” a statement read.
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told Global News in a statement that as part of the annual process that looks at staffing, “teachers are declared ‘surplus’ to the needs of their school.”
“This does not mean they are being laid off. The numbers are higher this year as we are being cautious ahead of learning of our funding from the Ministry of Education later this month,” he wrote.
“No final decisions will be made until after we receive funding details from the Ministry.”
The e-mailed notification was sent on the eve of a massive rally at of Queen’s Park Saturday afternoon. Thousands of teachers, parents, students and others gathered to protest the Doug Ford government’s changes to education, including increasing high school class sizes.
However, the government said it has been clear since “day one that there will be absolutely no job losses as a result of changes to class sizes.”
“This comment from the OSSTF is an example of further misinformation being spread by the unions,” the statement said, adding, “Our Government will remain focused on one goal: student success.”
WATCH: More than 10,000 protestors rallied against education reforms in front of the Ontario Legislature on Saturday. Despite their opposition to changes, the Ford Government seems unmoved by the discontent.
“The number of surplus this year is decidedly uncommonly high. It’s absolutely appalling if you take into consideration that TDSB is in an enrolment growth period,” Wolfe wrote in a statement to Global News Sunday evening.
Wolfe blames the high surplus figure on the provincial government creating uncertainty for school boards.
“The reason the number is so high is directly related to the government’s decision to increase the funding ratio of classroom teachers from 22:1 to 28:1 and the fact that they also haven’t provided any indication of funding for teacher allocation not covered in that specific ratio.”
NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles told Global News the threat of teachers being laid off is “very real.”
“Parents, students and educators are deeply worried about how many fewer staff members there could be in our kids schools in September if Doug Ford goes ahead with his deep cuts to education,” she said in a statement. “Taking educators away would make it harder for teachers to get to know their students’ strengths and challenges, and nearly impossible to give any of them one-on-one attention.
“It means courses in Toronto schools will be cut in subjects like technology, trades, art and music.”
Wolfe also points out while classroom teachers, special education teachers, and ESL staff are factored into the new classroom ratio, positions such as guidance, library and student success teachers are paid for through the Grants for Student Needs (GSNs).
“There would have been hundreds declared surplus due to the 28:1 goal set by the government anyway, but without knowledge of how much funding will come for those GSN-funded categories of teachers, the board determined not to allocate any of those positions until they know for sure how much money they will have. This added to the overall number of surplus teachers,” Wolfe said.
A high school teacher who was not authorized to speak publicly and received the notification told Global News they were “absolutely shocked” and that they “didn’t expect it at all.”
The teacher who has been employed for nine years by the TDSB says while she’s hopeful she will be able to find work once the surplus process wraps up, she’s concerned for those with less seniority.
WATCH: Thousands of Ontario students skip class, protest Ford government education cuts
“I think its horrible, because we are losing the new teachers who have enthusiasm. It is essential to the vitality of schools to have a diverse background of teachers.”
The teacher says she voted for premier Ford but believes he and Education Minister Lisa Thompson need to take another look at their strategy.
“I think we need to remove classrooms from the table and look at what other ways we can fund education, other than saying what do we have to take away from education?”