NS Parents for Public Education Dispute Facts behind Teacher Cuts
The recent cuts to teaching staff at many HRM high schools has raised concerns for the group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. They believe the reasons being given for the cuts do not match the facts. And they question why misinformation is being used as justification for cuts.
Claim 1: Cuts are based on normal adjustments due to declining student enrollment.
While there are always year to year adjustments, based on enrollment, the number of teacher cuts do not match enrollment changes. Three examples of high school enrollment numbers are below. 2021 and 2022 are based on HRCE’s own projections as calculated in 2018.1,2
The above schools are losing 9 or 10 teachers each. Projections predict an overall decline of 115 students among all 3 schools. That is a decline of 1 teacher for every 4 students.
“We are seeing cuts to schools that are clearly not based on student population changes,” notes Stacey Rudderham, of NS Parents for Public Education. “At a time when our students are going to need more help, not less, as we hopefully exit this pandemic.”
Claim 2: Student enrollment is less than it was 10 years ago and yet we have more teachers. The enrollment in the Halifax region in 2011 was 49,531.2. HRCE’s own projections for 2021 were 51,360.2 That is a 4 per cent increase in enrollment in 10 years. It is not a decrease.
Claim 3: This is adjusting prep time to the same as the rest of the province and/or UIT is not the best use of teacher time. The minister has referred numerous times to this being an adjustment to prep time. It is NOT. This is the removal of unassigned instructional time (UIT). Unassigned — but still instructional. UIT is assigned to each teacher by the school and is used to provide things like study halls, extra help, and substitute teaching. Supports that require teachers. Prep time is a different thing altogether – and the minister should know this. UIT is specifically referred to in the HRCE’s 2019-2020 business plan as scheduled time to be used to support student success.3(pg26) And yet it is being eliminated at a time when students need more help than ever.
While tasks like hall monitoring, cafeteria supervision, and certain covid protocols could have always been done by others. Who will be doing this now? Will additional staff be hired or will schools have to adjust on their own? And take funds from other programs to pay for it?
It is important to note that while UIT is unique to HRCE that does not mean teachers in other regions do not take responsibility for similar tasks. Many schools assign study hall or assisting another teacher in their classroom as part of a teacher’s daily schedule (instead of a classroom assignment). That is the only way that these supports can exist in schools. It did not necessarily mean more workload for other teachers. HRCE has made it clear that UIT will be replaced with classroom time. This mean that supports will be disappearing. This may, in fact, end up being an adjustment that favours the rest of the province rather than equalizing things.
Claim 4: No teachers will be laid off.
Saying no teachers will be laid off is the equivalent of taking away school buses from one region of the province, adding more school buses to another region, and saying no bus routes were cancelled. Moving teachers to other schools does not change that this is cuts to staffing levels in HRCE schools. And the minister neglects to mention retiring teachers who are not being replaced. It does not solve the problem to learn that teachers will get jobs elsewhere.
Claim 5: Student supports will remain the same.
Fewer teachers and the same (or more) students will mean less time for student supports.
Teachers in HRCE will now teach 7 courses per year instead of 6. It is patently obvious that this will result in less time available to provide other supports. In this adjustment some course options will disappear. And some teachers have been assigned subjects that are outside their areas of expertise which will increase their prep needs. Further reducing their availability to their students.
“Students have made incredible sacrifices in the last year,” says Rudderham. “To make a
dramatic change like this, that will reduce their course selections and the amount of time
available for teacher driven supports, could not be worse timing for our young people.”
HRM contributes a higher percentage of mandatory funding to education than other regions (collected as a percentage in property taxes). The HRM contributes $2,839 per student vs. $1,838 per student paid by other municipalities.4 In 2020 the HRM contributed nearly 25% of the entire HRCE operating budget.4 HRM’s contribution grew by 54% in a 10-year period4 when enrollment grew by only 4%. HRM also pays supplementary funding – the approved 2020/21 budget for Supplementary Education was $14,546,100.4 Where is this funding going? No other municipality pays as much toward education as HRM and its contribution to education has grown faster than the student population. Yet HRM schools are being targeted for these cuts.