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Ontario government to put $1.6B towards ensuring no teacher layoffs due to larger class sizes

Vacant desks are pictured at the front of an empty classroom.
Vacant desks are pictured at the front of an empty classroom. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jonathan Hayward

TORONTO – Ontario’s education minister will issue a directive to school boards Friday about $1.6 billion being put toward ensuring no teachers are laid off because of larger class sizes, The Canadian Press has learned.

Boards will also learn their funding allocations for the next school year. The funding, known as Grants for Student Needs, will increase from last year – it was $24.5 billion for 2018-19 – though “not massively,” senior government sources said.

READ MORE: Peel school board issues surplus notices to about 400 teachers after government class size changes

The Progressive Conservative government has announced that high school class sizes will increase, from an average of 22 to 28, over four years. Average class sizes for Grades 4 to 8 will increase by one student per classroom – from a current 23 students to 24.

School boards have said that will mean thousands of teaching jobs are lost, and some boards have been issuing surplus notices to teachers, prompting worries that those people will be fired.

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Education Minister Lisa Thompson has said no teacher will “involuntarily” lose their job and the government has set aside $1.6 billion in attrition protection to ensure there are no layoffs. If a school board has 10 fewer retirements than expected, for example, it could afford to not lay off 10 teachers by drawing on the fund.

Thompson will issue a directive to boards Friday telling them that she expects them not to lay off any teachers because of her recently announced class size changes, the sources said.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the Grants for Student Needs funding announcement usually comes sooner than this, and that has led to added anxiety for boards.

READ MORE: TDSB memo says increased class sizes could lead to loss of 800 high school teaching jobs

“The ministry has really not been clear with them and this is very late in the day as well, which is why the boards across the province have started to have to issue these redundancy and surplus letters to teachers – because there’s a lot of banking on having this information, having everything ready to go for September,” she said.

Teachers’ and education workers’ contracts expire at the end of August, but the government is looking to start bargaining early, potentially as soon as Monday. Premier Doug Ford has warned against the possibility of strikes, saying teachers have “a great gig.”

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Thousands of teachers and supporters filled the front lawn of the legislature recently to protest the government’s changes to education.

Boards and teachers have also expressed concerns about Thompson’s announcement that starting in 2020-21, students will be required to take a minimum of four credits out of 30 through e-learning courses.