© Guardian photo
P.E.I. Teachers' Federation president Gilles Arsenault
P.E.I.’s education system is losing 28 teaching positions as the provincial government eliminates them through attrition.
And while the government plans to reduce staffing levels by not replacing retirees, P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation president Gilles Arsenault says they are still cuts to the system.
The latest cuts also come on the heels of several years of staff reductions through attrition, he said.
Arsenault said the government plans to cut 28 classroom teachers, along with seven positions at the board level and six in the Education Department.
Those changes mean there will be more split classes and larger class sizes, he said.
The changes to staffing levels affecting the English Language School Board come after the Liberals tabled their budget last week, which included an increase in grants to the school boards of $3.5 million.
That’s about one per cent more than last year.
No positions will be lost in the French Language School Board.
Arsenault said the cuts are strictly a budgetary exercise and the government should look at factors like class composition when determining staffing levels.
“Numbers of students or enrollment numbers are irrelevant to determine the needs of the school,” he said.
People should be concerned about what is happening in the school system, Arsenault said.
“This system is back to the bare bones operation and it’s very hard for teachers and principals to try and operate under these circumstances.”
In response to the changes, Education Minister Hal Perry said the department has been asked to find efficiencies.
“We want to do it with a minimal impact on the classroom,” he said.
Perry said there will be about 40 retirements this year and together with declining enrollments there will be fewer full-time positions in Island schools.
The positions that are changing at the board level and at the department deal with curriculum delivery and development. Those employees will be moved to positions in the department, in the school system or in other departments, Perry said.
“Nobody will be losing any jobs.”
Perry said there are about 300 fewer students projected for September and the student to teacher ratio will only increase slightly.
As for the issue of class composition, Perry said the department is in discussion with the school boards and the PEITF.
“We’re committed to meeting the needs of students and we’re going to work with the teachers on class composition,” he said.