Ontario Government Shares Surprising Information About Class Size Increases in Halton

 

Some people are relieved and others are confused following news that the Ontario government, which pledged to increase class sizes earlier this year, will actually phase the increase over several years.

Today (Aug. 22), the province shocked residents when it announced that there will be no fundamental changes to average class sizes for the 2019-20 school year. 

The announcement was made by Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. 

I am determined to put our students first and listen to those we serve,” said Minister Lecce in a statement. “Today I want to reassure students and their families that this September class sizes will remain effectively the same as last year.”

The province says teachers can expect one additional student per class for students in grades 4 to 8; an additional half student per class for students in grades 9 to 12, and no changes to class size requirements for students in junior kindergarten to grade 3.

The province says the change—there was no indication prior to today’s announcement that the class-size increases that prompted cancelled courses and staffing issues would be phased out over several years—comes from listening to residents.

From day one, I have made it clear that I was intent on listening to, and working with, our education sector partners,” said Lecce in a statement. “Our mission remains to land a deal in good faith, that puts our students first, so parents and educators can have the predictability they deserve.”

Some teacher groups are not pleased, calling the change of heart “smoke and mirrors.” 

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) said it is “dismissing today’s announcement by the Minister of Education regarding class size changes as just more smoke and mirrors from the Ford government.”

In a statement, the OSSTF says that even though Lecce’s announcement indicates that the student/teacher ratio will be set at 22.5:1 for the coming school year, the ratios will still increase to 28:1 over time as teachers retire and are not replaced.

The Ford government is framing this as a good news announcement,” said OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof in a statement, “but this does nothing to mitigate the damage that will be wrought by the removal of a full quarter of Ontario’s high school teachers from the system.”

Bischof implies the province is effectively kicking the can down the road. 

The end result will still be ballooning class sizes, fewer supports for students, and a significant reduction in available courses and programs. This is nothing more than a feeble attempt at sleight of hand on the part of Minister Lecce. His government declared war on the province’s public education system back in March, and he would like us to believe that today’s announcement constitutes an olive branch. Sadly, it is nothing of the sort. It is simply a new plan of attack with the same destructive objective.”

To offset potential layoffs, the province says it’s providing $1.6 billion in teacher job protection for school boards between the 2019-20 and 2022-23 school years. 

It says the funding will help maintain teaching positions, so that staffing reductions can be managed through teacher retirements and voluntary leaves.

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