Boards across Ontario have reported hiring more than 3,435 teachers since last fall, as well as 1,430 custodians, 402 early childhood educators and 300 education assistants, an internal ministry of education document shows.
Education unions have unsuccessfully been trying to obtain regional breakdowns about the positions, which have been touted by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and are funded by federal and provincial grants, as well as the boards themselves.
The Toronto District School Board said government pandemic funds alone have added 132 full-time equivalent teachers, 78 custodians (with another 19 to be hired), 12 education assistants, nine special-needs assistants, eight child and youth workers and two mental health workers.
In addition, the board has hired another 300-plus staff members, at a cost of about $35 million, using board funds.
Typically, the TDSB accounts for about one-tenth of all staffing and funding in the province’s public education sector.
The provincial survey of boards, obtained by the Star, does not break down the new employment numbers locally, but is based on reports from 83 public boards and school authorities across the province about hiring since the school year began last September.
The Star also obtained figures about two other Greater Toronto boards, with the Peel District School Board reporting 226 extra teachers, 50 early childhood educators and 115 custodians to the province. The York Region District School Board says it has hired 460 staff, including 397 teachers, using both government funding and board reserves.
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Boards have also told the ministry that they expect to still hire about 891 additional teachers, 308 education assistants, 146 early childhood educators and 401 custodians.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 education workers in the province, said some of its locals have not noticed any new employees; others say while hiring has taken place, more staffers are needed.
CUPE has been seeking a board-by-board listing of all COVID-related hires, but said Friday that the education ministry had “flatly refused” its Freedom-of-Information request. It plans to appeal.
“In early December, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) made a Freedom-of-Information request as part of its investigation into conflicting reports: from the provincial government, which boasts about its ‘unprecedented investments’ in safe schools during the pandemic; and from CUPE education workers, who say that they have seen little to no extra staffing to support the measures needed to protect students, staff and families from the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” the union said in a written release.
Laura Walton, who is president of CUPE’s school board bargaining unit, said the union “simply wants to know where these workers are, because CUPE members are telling us that they don’t see them. If workers haven’t in fact been hired in the numbers the minister claims, then he is putting the long-term health of students and staff at risk.”
Schools across the province continue to reopen, with boards like Halton, Niagara and Durham to resume in-person classes on Monday. Toronto, Peel and York will open their doors to students after Family Day.
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