Conservative leader calls for big changes in schools
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013 5:20PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 24, 2013 5:21PM EST
Ontario's Conservative leader plans to increase class sizes, halt the roll out of all-day kindergarten and cut jobs if he is elected premier. Tim Hudak announced sweeping changes today that would save the province millions of dollars. Parents who were hoping for all-day kindergarten at their school are not happy to hear this.
But the biggest reaction is from the unions representing elementary teachers and support workers who say Hudak's plan adds fire to an already explosive situation.
Ashraf Uddin was dropping his young son off to kindergarten at Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park Public School. The school is scheduled to get full-day kindergarten next year.
“It’s wonderful for parents who have full time kindergarten, where both parents work,” says Uddin.
Tim Hudak's proposal would quash that plan. He unveiled a paper today called "Paths to Prosperity", that, among things, would put the brakes on the roll out of full day kindergarten.
“Unfortunately we're heading towards a $30 billion dollar deficit,” Hudak told a news conference in Toronto this morning, “it’s not whether it’s a good program or a bad program and when you're facing that kind of situation now, you make some difficult decisions now.”
Hudak's proposal would also marginally increase class sizes and slash 10,000 jobs, including maintenance workers, educational assistants and administrative staff. CUPE, the union representing most of those support workers, says Hudak’s paper is a directly attack on their members and will negatively affect students and their education. Sue Hanson, with CUPE Local 5678 out of Brockville says, “When you take maintenance and custodial staff out of schools, you get dirtier schools, more outbreaks of the flu and a higher risk to students.” Hanson says that when you add on further cuts to educational assistants, librarians and IT technicians, which impacts children’s education.
“These decisions aren't easy,” Hudak says, “but they've got to get done so let's get going.”
The union representing Ottawa's elementary teachers says Hudak is clearly hoping to garner votes with this plan.
“Who on earth thinks it's a good thing to take a system and cut 10% of staff,” says Peter Giuliani, the President of the Ottawa Elementary School Teachers Federation, “when you know that more and more expectations are being placed in the school community?”
“Everybody knows that schools are being asked to pick up all sorts of additional roles and you're going to deal with this by cutting 10,000 jobs out of the system. Who thinks that makes sense?”
Giuliani says the plan to halt the roll out of full day kindergarten creates a two-tiered system “which is oxymoronic,” Giuliani added, “but given it's Hudak's white paper I think it fits in with the general, careful thought that went into it.”
Parents had little information about Hudak’s proposal but father Zak James said, “I guess there's a pretty large deficit in the province and if that's what has to be done to bring that deficit down, then that's important thing to do.”
Ashraf Uddin disagreed, “They need to put more money into education and cut other things,” he says, “They have to do something but why are they cutting education?”