© Guardian photo
Education Minister Alan McIsaac. FILE PHOTO
Education minister says it’s part of agreement reached last year with P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation
The provincial government is eliminating 32 teaching positions for the 2014-15 school year.
That brings to 103 the number of positions that have been trimmed over the past three years.
Education Minister Alan McIsaac said it is part of an agreement reached between his government and the P.E.I. Teachers Federation last year during contract talks. McIsaac is quick to note that no one is losing a job.
“It was agreed that we would take 70 out over two years (but) only through attrition,’’ McIsaac told The Guardian following question period at the P.E.I. legislature. “As the retirements come we don’t fill those positions.’’
English Language School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet says that with fewer teachers there will be more multi-grade classrooms where students in one grade end up in the same class with students from a grade above or below them.
Opposition leader Steven Myers says government is failing Island children.
“Teachers have a really hard job. I feel bad for them because there’s pressure on their shoulders every time there are cuts. Now they’re talking about combining classrooms,’’ Myers said. “By heaping more pressure on our teachers (and) what we’re expecting of them, to do a better job, is simply unrealistic.’’
McIsaac acknowledges it may lead to more multi-grade classrooms.
“We have those now,’’ he said. “It may lead to a few more of those but we have had significant student decline in enrolment the last few years.’’
During question period on Tuesday, McIsaac said $206 million of his $230 million budget goes to the school board.
“We allocate the numbers that we feel, the dollars that we feel are needed from the numbers.’’
For a kindergarten class, the teacher-student ratio is one teaching position for 15 students; for primary grades 1-3 it’s one position for 22; elementary grades 4-6 is one position for 25 students; intermediate 7-9 it’s one position to 28; and senior classes, grades 10-12, one position per 30.
McIsaac said it’s extremely challenging to maintain class sizes from one end of the province to the other considering enrolment in rural schools is much different than those in urban zones. For example, there are five classes in Grades 1-6 with 30 students in each class but there are 63 classes with 16 or fewer students in them.
Since 2001-02 the province has lost (in Grades 1-6) 5,060 students. McIsaac said in that same time period they’ve put 96 teachers into the system.
“Over that period, we’ll have taken out 106 teachers, so in total, 5,060 students, 10 fewer teachers.’’
Some will note that the Opposition is quick to attack government for spending money so why is it also attacking government for cutting back?
“Never once have I said do it at the expense of students,’’ Myers said. “Never once have I said do it at the expense of education on Prince Edward Island.’’
Myers said wasteful spending can be found on hotels and in highways projects, but not in education.