The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has tabled a list of proposals aimed at addressing a $67.8-million shortfall in its budget for the upcoming school year, and a large portion of that is due to a reduction in funding from the Ontario government.
“Difficult decisions need to be made,” John Malloy, the TDSB’s director of education, told trustees during a finance, budget and enrollment committee meeting Monday afternoon, saying staff were working on budget proposals up until Monday morning.
“We understand there is a human reality at the end of these decisions … This has been very challenging — lots of tension and a bit of anxiety.”
Of the total budget shortfall, Malloy said $25.7 million is the board’s annual shortfall and $42.1 million represents a net loss from the Ministry of Education grant.
Among the proposals to save money in the board’s $3.4-billion budget are plans to cut busing services for certain groups of students (mainly French immersion and gifted students who are in programs not at their home schools), reduce the allocation of French supplementary teachers, cut the number of positions in parts of the board’s learning centres, and reorganize central administration departments.
Officials said it’s hoped the reductions will be accommodated through staff attrition.
Krista Wylie, a spokesperson with the grassroots campaign Fix Our Schools, said trustees in Ontario could face some hard choices.
“We’re feeling like school boards across the province are being faced with this difficult decision of having to present balanced budgets by the end of June that acknowledge and accommodate the funding cuts unfortunately by the province,” said Krista Wylie from Fix our Schools.
“Given that the power really resides with the province in terms of how much money gets given, they’re doing the best that they can with limited information coming at them in different times to manage a very difficult situation.”
The Progressive Conservative government announced cuts to education funding in March, including increasing the average class size for Grades 4 to 8 from 23.84 to 24.5 – a move the board says will cost it nearly $10 million next year.
The province has faced sharp criticism for its changes to education funding, with school boards in Toronto, Peel region and eastern Ontario writing to Education Minister Lisa Thompson to tell her that the bump means they can offer fewer elective courses, such as in the arts and skilled trades.
For the past several weeks, the TDSB said they will need to make difficult decisions in order to find savings.
Beginning on Wednesday, consultations on the report will begin. The full board needs to approve a balanced budget by June 30.
— With files from Caryn Lieberman and The Canadian Press