Students will suffer the real impact of Ford's education cuts
A high school in Caledon has crushed the hopes of many students by cutting its award-winning music classes.
A Mississauga school sent a note home saying it’s “no longer in a position to offer students credits beyond those that are required” to graduate. When students reselected their courses for the fall, dozens of options had disappeared, including a Grade 10 math class designed for struggling students, Grade 11 music and a Grade 12 science speciality.
And the Toronto District School Board is now looking at cutting busing for French immersion students, cancelling the International Baccalaureate program in elementary school and charging for it in high school, and reducing other programs to balance its budget with less provincial funding.
We’re now starting to see what the Ford government’s cuts to education really mean. And this is just a small sample of the havoc that’s being created in schools, big and small, urban and rural, right across Ontario.
What started out as a nebulous discussion about the government saving money by getting rid of thousands of teacher positions and increasing class sizes has become pretty clear.
And, of course, it’s not good news.
These cuts will hurt struggling students, gifted students and generally make school a lot less interesting for all students.
That’s because fewer teachers doesn’t just mean fewer classes. It also means fewer coaches for sports teams and fewer people to run everything from chess club to the school yearbook.
For some kids, the curriculum basics — the logic of math, the discoveries in science and the joy of reading — is enough to get them to school, perhaps not with a smile every day but at least in their seats on time.
For other students, the only thing that gets them through the door so they can learn the basics is the elective class or extracurricular activity that sparks their passion.
No matter how thousands of teachers end up leaving Ontario’s school system — a happy retirement, headed off to another career or through a layoff notice — it was always going to be the students who were going to pay the price of the Ford government’s destructive moves on education.
That fact may have been obscured for a time with the war of words between Premier Doug Ford and his education minister on one side, and the teacher unions and schools boards on the other, each claiming the other was wrong about, well, everything.
Ford tried to keep that theme going Tuesday, attacking the Toronto board for “political stunts” and “reckless spending.”
But this is not a Toronto issue. The problems with these cuts are real, and fast becoming better understood, whether Ford wants to admit it or not.
Earlier this month at Caledon’s Mayfield Secondary School hundreds of students lined the hallways waiting to reselect their fall classes after the school announced major cuts, including to its beloved Mayfield Magnetics music program.
That’s the fallout from the loss of just teachers.
Now multiply that impact by the 3,500 fewer teachers that the government claims its education cuts will produce over four years.
Worse still, experts in education claim the provincial cuts will mean the loss of far more teachers, perhaps as many as 10,000. And we already know that all the other voices in education, from teacher unions to schools boards and students themselves, have so far proven to be more right than the government, with its absurd claims that, with some efficiencies here and there, its cuts should practically go unnoticed.
Cutting teachers and increasing class sizes means fewer options and positive experiences for high school students across the province.
It doesn’t have to be this way. This is a choice the Ford government is making. But it’s one that Ontario’s students will have to live with.