While the Ministry of Education has offered stabilized funding in the face of declining enrollment for 2015-2016, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is concerned that longstanding structural funding issues are continuing to have a negative effect, in particular on students with special needs and the implementation of full-day Kindergarten.
“While Ontario has embraced an integrated model for special education, funding to school boards is not providing the supports that teachers require to meet the needs of all students,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “There are not enough educational assistants and class sizes aren’t adjusted to meet the number of students with specialized needs and the nature of their exceptionalities.”
“While the government has increased funding by introducing important new programs like full-day Kindergarten, we are concerned that Kindergarten class sizes are too large and that the grants don’t provide designated early childhood educators with sufficient planning time with teachers. There is no indication these issues will be addressed with the government’s current funding strategy.”
ETFO is also concerned that the Ministry’s increased focus on the utilization of space will mean school closures. “The government’s incentive funding to consolidate schools would have a negative effect of driving elementary schools and students into high school settings. We know that when this happens, younger students don’t get the access they need to shared facilities. They are also exposed to environments that are not age-appropriate,” added Hammond.
In a brief submitted during Ministry consultations last fall, ETFO recommended areas to achieve savings including changing EQAO to random-sample tests as other successful jurisdictions like Finland have done. The report indicated that “this would reduce costs while maintaining appropriate system checks.”
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.