The Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) and its teachers are bracing for job losses due to provincial government cutbacks.

The province has indicated it will be raising the funded average high school class size from 22 to 28, as well as an increase at the Grade 4 to 8 level from 23.84 to 24.5. It has also said boards cannot count on the continuation of local priorities funding, which provided more special education staffing to support children in need, “at-risk” students and adult education.

TLDSB director of education Larry Hope said the board has not finalized what the cuts will amount to but estimates $7.4 million in reduced funding. Board wide, Hope estimated a reduction of approximately 23.5 high school teaching positions and 15 elementary teaching positions.

“We are very, very concerned about being able to provide the excellent support that we have all become quite accustomed to and frankly have become very proud of,” Hope said. “We always want to ensure we can have the greatest support possible for all our learners.”

Minister of Education Lisa Thompson said April 11 school boards have been left in a bad position due to poorly negotiated collective agreements with staff.

“I appreciate the fact that there are some school boards experiencing financial pressures of teacher salaries and benefits due to proposed changes in class size,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be working with school boards as we go forward. We’re going to be investing in education and we’re going to help school boards get it right.”

Ontario’s 2019 budget plans for a $1 billion increase in education spending over the next three years, less than the rate of inflation.

Minister of Finance Victor Fedeli said balancing the budget was crucial to protecting core services.

“Do we really think our public education system will flourish when the government continues to pile on more and more debt? The answer to both questions is a resounding no,” Fedeli said.

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation local district 15 president Colin Matthew said the cuts will harm specialized programming in schools.

“These cuts will drive up class sizes in the core credits – bigger math and English classes, some of which are already at 33 students, meaning far less individual time for students,” Matthew said in a press release. “And will be the death knell for specialized programming like arts, technology and senior elective classes.”

Hope said the board will have a clearer idea of its staffing picture in May, as teachers declare retirements.

“We’re watching very closely to see what the (provincial) budget brings us,” Hope said. “And what we’re going to be able to do, and what we’re going to have to do, to protect the excellence in programming.”

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Joseph Quigley is a staff writer with The Highlander. Joseph is always digging hard for news stories and covers all the latest happenings in the County of Haliburton. He believes in the importance of local news, finding more to every story and listening to marginalized voices. When he’s not working on news, Joseph finds himself getting all-too engaged in social media and cheering on his favourite Toronto Maple Leafs.