Jun 16, 2015 – 9:39 PM EDT
Last Updated: Jun 16, 2015 – 9:39 PM EDT
Public education workers rallied outside the Greater Essex County School Board office Tuesday to protest local and provincial cuts to education, moments after the 2015-16 public school board budget was passed.
“They’ve now just passed a budget that eliminates the 21 support workers and seven deaf and hard of hearing support workers,” said Martha Hradowy, president of educational support staff of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation.
“All of the cuts they’re proposing to find efficiency directly affect our youngest learners and students with special needs,” Hradowy said.
The cuts come after a projected decline of more than 400 elementary students in the GEDSB for the upcoming school year, amidst mounting empty student spaces already in the system. The cuts are expected to eliminate jobs for close to 40 early childhood educators and special needs support workers.
Minutes after trustees passed the $415.3-million budget — including a rise in senior administration costs by $55,000 to $7.16 million — picketers representing CUPE, ETFO and OSSTF listened to speeches and were vocal about their discontent.
“We’re here to say that we’re tired of this. It is always the front-line workers that are cut while administration increases,” said Dianne Serran, a CUPE member.
Demonstrators also opposed tabled demands by the Ontario School Boards Association and provincial government that would “allow increased class sizes and compromise teacher working conditions and students’ learning conditions.”
Adelina Cecchin, president of the Greater Essex local for the province’s elementary public school teachers union, says that the proposal is not solution-oriented and has not been fairly negotiated.
“OPSBA and the government have not changed their position at all or negotiated in any meaningful way since February,” she said.
Cecchin said the lack of movement is behind the recent elementary school teachers work-to-rule campaign.
“We are rallying to ask our trustees to speak up against OPSBA contract strips, and to put pressure on the provincial government to support small class sizes and learning conditions for all students including those with special needs,” she said.