This week the Peel District School Board (PDSB) announced to staff that it would be getting rid of all of the contained “communication classes” and eliminating all of the Central Board Office (CBO) teacher positions for the 2024-2025 school year. The closing of the specialized communication classes is being touted as a bold step towards inclusion, while the cutting of the more than 300 CBO positions is ostensibly to deal with the ongoing staffing crisis in Ontario schools.
While PDSB is trying to sell it as a move towards inclusion and equity, it is simply about saving money. The loss of the communication classes, in which up to eight students receive specialized help across the curriculum for the full day, will return those students to mainstream classrooms. Education Assistant (EA) supports are already in short supply and stretched razor thin, and this looks more like a move towards abandoning those students who need extra attention.
The cutting of more than 300 CBO positions (such as literacy coaches, special education resource teachers, autism itinerant teachers and many others) is ostensibly to move those teachers back into classroom teaching positions, thus getting rid of many Long Term Occasional teaching positions and creating a reserve army of occasional teachers that can fill the many vacancies. Many of these positions work directly with students with special needs and others provide valuable support to teachers. These cuts will make teacher jobs harder and leave more students abandoned and struggling in oversized classes.
There is no denying that there is a staffing crisis in all Ontario schools, jobs are going unfilled and some classes are left without a regular teacher for months. The answer from the school boards and Ontario government can’t be to reduce further the few remaining supports for students and teachers who are struggling. Students, parents, ECEs, EAs, teachers, custodians and all school staff have a mutual interest in increasing funding, working and learning conditions in every board. We need unity amongst those groups to unite and fight for a better public education for all.
Talk to your coworkers, look for ways to support each other and work together for improvements in your schools. These connections are necessary to find ways to refuse unsafe work, identify points of common interest and form a common front like Quebec workers to win necessary improvements to public education in Ontario.
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