Letters to Trustees: Don’t cut EAs

Here is a small sampling of the many letters copied to CPE in this last week:


From: Parthipan Kandavel    To: gary.crawford@tdsb.on.ca (School trustee, ward 18)

I am writing with regards to my disapproval of the proposed cuts to Educational Assistants in our schools. I strongly feel this decision will have negative consequences, both short and long term, besides the obvious fact that a teacher's time will now be distributed amongst a greater number of students. I have grown up and have had all my pre-university education in the Toronto District School Board, thus have seen and experienced the significant role EAs play in assisting students learn, as well as balance workloads with teachers.

Short-Term: The TDSB is unique in that it is home to very diverse ethnic communities, where the parents tend to face difficulties effectively communicating with teachers. Whereas EAs, that are generally more representative of Toronto's diversity, fill a crucial role in providing feedback and communication to parents.

Long-Term: The absence of EAs will not only reduce special attention needed for special needs children, but also delay the opportunities to identify children as such. This is perhaps the most significant obstacle of such a cut, in that the delay in identification of special needs has considerable long-term affects on these children.

Thus, I strongly encourage you to vote against these proposed cuts.

Regards,

Parthipan


Letter to Trustees
Subject: Education Asistant cuts contemplated at TDSB!

The greatest public investments are in learning, training and education. The social and economic returns are high, exponential, broad based, and far-reaching for generations. It defies rationality that we have sacrificed investment, which has such sustainable effects, at the expense of our learners, for the short-term political expedient of tax cuts which benefit the "haves". This is vote and political contribution pandering at its most disturbing worst. A recent highly respected study has shown that, overwhelmingly, Torontonians would even agree to tax increases to improve public learning.

There is no place for predominant short-term planning in public policy decision-making: There must be long-term planning and programming to be effective. Learners are compromised grievously otherwise.

The primary answer to poverty has been demonstrated in many countries to be investment in public education. It has been also shown, empirically, that the long-term answer for reducing violence and crime is through the respect and skill earned through universal public education. Improved health and social wellbeing has its roots in excellence in public education. A sustainable environment is enabled through universally available public education. Individual and social enrichment and satisfaction is cultivated through universal public education. Commercial and industrial prowess has its basis in thorough state of the art public education.

Why then would the Board to consider reducing the number of Education Assistants in our schools, especially in light of the recommendations prescribed in the Falconer Report and the Board's stated commitment to their implementation? Don't try to 'whistle and chew' at the same time. Take a stand to improve and protect public education, now and into the future. Be responsible to your electorate which invested you with the trust to do just that. Failure to stop the ill-conceived cuts now, is an abdication of responsibility. I have every confidence in believing you will not allow the duly elected Board to be usurped. You will insist on excellence in public education.

You will not agree to these or any arbitrary cuts.

With respect,
Yours truly,
SeánUsher
President  CACEA   3/4/08

 


PROFESSIONAL STUDENT SERVICES PERSONNEL
DISTRICT 12, OSSTF
1482 Bathurst Street, 3rd Floor, Toronto, M5P 3H1 (416) 393-8900 www.pssp.on.ca

February 29th,2008
To Whom It May Concern:
Re: Elimination of Regular Program Educational Assistants

My members and I are dismayed to hear that the TDSB is again considering drastic cuts to the Regular Program Educational Assistants. Children at all age levels require more adult support, not less, particularly in the early years.

Removal of EAs from primary classrooms cause adult /student ratios to double for 1 to 10 ( 2 adults to 20 students) to 1 to 20 or more. Often Regular Program EAs work in many situations with young students who exhibit exceptionalities before they receive professional assessment and placement. Without the help of an EA, teachers would not be able to dedicate valuable teaching time to all their students. As well, there is a considerable backlog to professional student assessment so children have to wait before they get resources like Child Youth Workers to help them succeed. Educational Assistants play a vital role in providing a safe and nurturing environment for all students in those formative years.

The TDSB has a responsibility to our students and parents which includes more adult involvement – that the current complement of Regular Program EAs provides. All of us working together to help students succeed from the first day they enter school will ensure the best possible public education.

We urge you not to cut these important jobs!

Sincerely,

Ken Jeffers
President

Attendance Counsellors – Child and Youth Workers – Child and Youth Counsellors
Educational Audiologists – Multilingual Team Leaders – Occupational Therapists
Physiotherapists – Psychological Services – Social Workers – Speech and Language
Pathologists – Student Equity Program Advisors


Dear Trustees,

This is the first time staffing has been done with no opportunity to have community or unions speak with you. I think if you heard from the schools and communities, they would agree that laying off staff at this time is wrong for many reasons. Perhaps the plan always was to avoid talking to any of the “stakeholders” this year. It is sad & upsetting to see what little access to decision-making that the community currently has, is taken away. As one of the Unions in this institution, I am horrified that basic democratic procedures are being ignored.
That being said, our main message today is that EAs should be increased, not decreased (not even by attrition). Taking away ANY E.A. drives the adult / student ratio UP. Twenty to one may be OK in the outlying regions, but it is a major step BACKWARDS in Toronto.
Attrition may be a less painful way to decrease staff and none of our current members lose. But is NOT painless for the children in the system: 37 FTE (27 last year & 10 this year) means MINIMALLY that 74 classes will not have the help they need (half day classes means 2 x 37 EAs or 74 classes). If the EA is assigned to two classes, the number could be as high as 148 classes without any assistance.
This reminds me of the 1 ½ year struggle we had to reverse the cuts to Safety Monitors’ hours of work and numbers on staff. The importance of the position was recognized by the majority of the Board only after several serious incidents took place in the secondary schools. We are happy to see that this year the numbers have grown to more closely meet the needs.
But what will have to happen for the Board to realize the importance of having a Regular Classroom EA in each of the classes where children are vulnerable (undiagnosed behaviour or learning problems or no English)? A child lost? Hurt? Or will it be a question of looking back, in 10 or 12 years, trying to figure out what went wrong? No one can deny the importance of intervention in the early learning years.
We also just discovered that there are 28 aquatics instructors are to be laid off as well (107 FTE this year minus 79 FTE for next year). Pool staffing cuts will throw a whole number of our members into shock – those at the bottom of the seniority list and anyone else who may have to move. Since there are no decisions about closing pools (a decision we will also fight), these members will be taken through the shredder for what? I would be very surprised if there were to be no community uprising to fight closing of the pools.
I understand that everyone is playing “not my problem” with the pools but they are EVERYONE’s problem. These important community resources have to be funded. I, for one, don’t care if it is my tax dollar from the property tax (city and school), provincial or federal – my money should go to support our community! I urge the Board to call an emergency meeting with the City and Province.
Thanks you for your consideration. I trust you will vote FOR the students and AGAINST cuts.
Katie McGovern
Recording & Corresponding Secretary
CUPE 4400  
416-393-0440 x 230


Dear Trustees,
As a kindergarten teacher in a special ed classroom, I can tell you that we need more EAs, not less. We know that early experiences have more to do with successful development than later ones. If there are no EAs to support the teacher, the kids won't have near the learning experience that they would have with an EA. Teaching kindergarten is busy, and there is plenty of work for two adults with 20 kids.
Moreover, if we put more money into training EAs (or even hiring ECEs!), kids would have much richer experiences, and more positive outcomes. So please don't cut our EAs. Hire more EAs, and hire more SNAs while you're at it.

David Banerjee
Pape Avenue PS  Kindergarten Intervention/Diagnostic Program