Meeting Notes - May 7, 2019

At our Standing Committee for Operations and Finance, we had an update on funding announcements from the provincial government.

Two major memos were released on April 26. Memorandum B14 “Grants for Student Needs (GSN) Funding for 2019-20” and Memorandum B15 “2019-20 Priorities and Partnerships Fund”. Unfortunately, the impact on our budget is not known at this time as we do not have our board’s allocation. The Ministry has said it will be coming in the next few weeks. This is quite late in the year and is impacting our planning process.

We do know that while Education funding across the province is increasing slightly to $24.66 billion from $24.53 billion, per pupil funding is decreasing slightly from $12,300 this year to $12,246 next year. I find it strange that there is a decrease in funding that goes directly to students in classrooms.

We also know that we will have to make changes as a result of the proposed increases in class sizes from an average of 23.8 to 24.5 in grades 4-8 and from 22 to 28 in secondary. This is very concerning. Because these are board averages, it is possible that many classes could be larger than the average in elementary. In secondary, the result could be that core curriculum classes will be large in order to compensate for lower registration in elective courses. Another impact could be that boards cannot offer the number and range of elective courses that they used to. As well, we know that students will have to take four e-learning classes in order to graduate starting in 2020-2021. We have no indication about what this model will look like or the corresponding costs.

The government has made it clear that they want to see fewer staff in the classroom including teachers and support staff. Their expectation is a gradual reduction over the next four years. Although they have announced that there will be attrition protection funding, we do not yet know exactly how this will work. What we do know is that boards are only eligible if retirements and voluntary leaves are less than the impact on the number of teachers that would be funded due to class size changes and e-learning requirements. The government has said that boards should not have to undertake lay-offs.

We also know that boards will receive funding for Behaviour Expertise which is anticipated to support programming for students on the Autism spectrum. This funding was created because of the changes the current government recently made to funding for Autism programming across the province. It is likely that many students who received specialized programs in specialized organizations will now be going to community schools because the support they used to receive from the government is not there anymore. Parents have expressed that they are skeptical that the funding the board receives will allow us to provide the same level of service.

The government also announced that the Local Priorities Fund will not be renewed after it expires in August. The LPF funds staff in the areas of mental health and development, for example. It was created by the previous government two years ago to enhance programming in these areas for at-risk and in-need students.

There will be much more to come on this. I am very concerned about all of these changes and the lack of information that we have received to date. We typically vote on the budget for the next school year in June. I am concerned that this will be delayed and what this will mean for staff who are unsure about whether they will have jobs and parents and students who are worried about what classrooms are going to look like next year. Although my understanding is that many teachers who may be affected by all of these changes will be able to move onto the Occasional roster and likely find contract positions within our board this fall, these changes are pushing people who previously had secure, full-time permanent positions into more precarious, less secure work. And there will be a domino effect for those already on the OT roster.

I am also concerned about the loss of the LPF which will mean fewer supports for students with mental health needs among other things. We already know that mental health is underfunded and that issues like depression and anxiety are on the rise. I hope that it is replaced with something else.


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Jessica Sartori