On October 24, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce held a press conference to update the public on ongoing contract talks with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. The Minister repeatedly stated that his government is offering to lower high school class sizes from 28 to 25 students per teacher. He said it 14 times during a 26-minute conference. It wasn’t long before Toronto Star reporter Robert Benzie reminded the Minister that his government had increased class sizes from 22 to 28 students; Benzie called the new proposal simply a “slightly less draconian” measure.
The offer on the table is not actually a reduction in class size. It’s an increase.
But what would be the impact of this “less draconian” proposal? How many teachers would each of the 72 school boards lose? That’s what we’re examining in this post.
To recap, the Ontario government increased school class sizes as part of a series of public services cuts approved in the past year. Under the government plan, class sizes in Grade 4 to 8 would increase from 23.84 students per teacher to 24.50; class sizes in high school (Grades 9 to 12) would jump from 22 students on average to 28. As a further cost-cutting measure, the province decreed that high school students would be required to earn four credits online instead of in the classroom. The government then set up a temporary $1.6 billion Job Protection Fund to ease the transition.
In September, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) estimated that there would be 10,054 fewer teachers in the education system by the 2023-2024 school year as a result of these changes. The FAO estimate took into account the growing school-age population and compared the number of teachers under the new rules with the number of teachers that would have been employed if the government had not increased class sizes and made online learning mandatory.
Using similar assumptions as the FAO report, but relying on publicly available data, we arrived at a similar estimate for teaching jobs lost province-wide (9,984). Then we adjusted the formulas to the “less draconian” measure offered yesterday at the bargaining table, and applied them to all school boards.
Under the government’s latest proposal, by 2023-2024, there would be approximately 5,900 fewer teachers (1,000 elementary teachers and 4,900 high school teachers) in Ontario’s education system as a result of class size increases and mandatory e-learning. The board by board estimates are listed below in Table 1.
The number of teaching positions eliminated is proportional to the number of students in each board: the more students there are, the more teaching positions eliminated. The Toronto DSB will have 686 fewer teachers and the York Region DSB will lose 381 positions. Smaller boards like the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario and the Thunder Bay Catholic School District will lose 39 and 21 teachers, respectively.
Our estimates assume a uniform 0.8% enrolment growth across school boards and the full implementation of the e-learning policy in 2020-2021. The figures provided are the totals for the 2023-2024 school year. Numbers include elementary and secondary classroom teaching jobs.
The limitation of these calculations is that they only capture classroom teacher positions funded through the largest funding envelope (the Pupil Foundation Allocation). They do not include other classroom staff and education workers who are funded through other grants to provide fundamental supports to students, inside and outside the classroom. Additional analyses are needed to capture these losses.
Even with this limitation, these are already staggering numbers.
The 4,900 fewer high school teachers, working 8 hours per day, 194 days per year, add up to the loss of more than 7.6 million instruction hours per year. Divide that by the estimated 624,500 high school school students in the 2023-2024 school year, and we conclude that each individual student will miss out on nearly 50 hours of teacher time throughout their high school career.
This time is needed to improve students’ academic achievement, support their individual needs, tap into their talents, and, in general, equip them for life and the job market. They are losing all of this. And what are they getting instead? More screen time and less face-to-face interaction with educators—likely the last thing most of them need.
Verdict: Losing 5,900 teachers is a really bad deal for Ontario students.
|Teaching positions eliminated by 2023-2024
|Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic DSB
|Avon Maitland DSB
|Brant Haldimand Norfolk CDSB
|Bruce-Grey Catholic DSB
|Catholic DSB of Eastern Ontario
|CEP de l'Est de l'Ontario
|Conseil scolaire Viamonde
|CSD catholique Centre-Est de l'Ontario
|CSD catholique de l'Est ontarien
|CSD catholique des Aurores boréales
|CSD catholique des Grandes Rivières
|CSD catholique du Nouvel-Ontario
|CSD catholique Franco-Nord
|CSD du Nord-Est de l'Ontario
|CSP du Grand Nord de l'Ontario
|DSB of Niagara
|DSB Ontario North East
|Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB
|Durham Catholic DSB
|Grand Erie DSB
|Greater Essex County DSB
|Halton Catholic DSB
|Hamilton-Wentworth Cath DSB
|Hastings & Prince Edward DSB
|Huron-Perth Catholic DSB
|Huron-Superior Catholic DSB
|Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB
|Kenora Catholic DSB
|Lambton Kent DSB
|London Dist. Catholic School
|Near North DSB
|Niagara Catholic DSB
|Nipissing-Parry Sound Cath DSB
|Northeastern Catholic DSB
|Northwest Catholic DSB
|Ottawa Catholic DSB
|PVNC Catholic DSB
|Rainy River DSB
|Renfrew County Catholic DSB
|Renfrew County DSB
|Simcoe County DSB
|Simcoe Muskoka Catholic DSB
|St. Clair Catholic DSB
|Sudbury Catholic DSB
|Superior North Catholic DSB
|Thames Valley DSB
|Thunder Bay Catholic DSB
|Toronto Catholic DSB
|Trillium Lakelands DSB
|Upper Canada DSB
|Upper Grand DSB
|Waterloo Catholic DSB
|Waterloo Region DSB
|Wellington Catholic DSB
|Windsor-Essex Catholic DSB
|York Catholic DSB
|York Region DSB
|Province of Ontario
|Sources: Ontario Ministry of Education, 2019-2020 School Boards Estimates; Ministry of Education, Education Funding Technical Paper 2018-2019; Ministry of Education, Education Funding Technical Paper 2019-2020; FAO, Expenditure Estimates 2019-20; calculations by the author.
Ricardo Tranjan is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office. Follow Ricardo on Twitter: @ricardo_tranjan.