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TDSB slashing hundreds of jobs in bid to balance budget

Declining enrolment numbers are forcing the Toronto District School Board to consider cutting back on high-school teachers. (file photo)

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto District School Board eliminated hundreds of jobs Wednesday night, including high school special education teachers, guidance counsellors and vice-principals.

Most of the cuts were at the high school level, including 115 regular classroom teachers and more than 20 special education and guidance counsellors. The board will also be eliminating 22 vice-principal positions, most of them at the secondary level.

The board's enrolment numbers are down about 2,400 students at the high school level and trustees are tackling at $55-million deficit. TDSB high schools are staffed with a 21.4 student-to-teacher ratio, slightly below the 22 pupils-per-teacher rate funded by the Ontario government. The cuts will bring that ratio closer to 21.7 pupils per teacher, and will create $27-million in savings.

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Trustee Shelley Laskin lamented the need for the cuts, but said that the board's spending had to more closely match government funding.

"These numbers are over the funding allocation that the province provides," she said.

"We're just not in a position to do anything else," said Trustee Jerry Chadwick.

Trustee Sheila Cary-Maegher said that the board was being forced into a tough position by the government's under-funding of full-day kindergarten. Staff have estimated that full-day kindergarten students are funded $9-million less than their peers at the Grade 1 level, and that the TDSB is being forced to find that money elsewhere in the budget.

"Everybody knows that we are being cheated," Ms. Cary-Maegher said.

Chair Chris Bolton said that changes to retirement gratuities and pensions may impact how many staff choose to retire, making it hard for the school board to know how many of those cuts will be attained through attrition.

"We're not exactly sure how this will all play out," he said. "There definitely will be a number of staff that will be given pink slips."

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Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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