03/21/2012 09:50 EDT | Updated 05/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Budget cuts could mean job losses at TDSB

Toronto's public school board, faced with an $85 million deficit, is considering hundreds of layoffs to deal with the problem.

The Toronto District School Board discussed a plan to cut the positions at its human resources committee meeting on Wednesday.

Among those who could face layoffs are education assistants, school secretaries and elementary school vice-principals. Some reports say the overall cuts could add up to about 600 positions.

In an interview on CBC's Metro Morning, Howard Goodman, chair of the TDSB human resources and professional learning committee, said the board has no choice since it gets its money from the province and cannot run a deficit.

"The reason why the staff is recommending these cuts is that these are areas where we are rich in Toronto, compared to every other board in the province," Goodman said.

"We have to hit $85 million…we also have almost 600 schools. So the numbers per school are small, even though the aggregate numbers are large."

Part of the problem, according to Goodman, is that the province's new all-day kindergarten isn't properly funded.

"This is a funding issue. It's not something we control. It's something we've lobbied for with the province," he said.

"It's partly underfunding of all-day kindergartens. Every time we put in an all-day kindergarten class we lose, sort of, $20,000," said Goodman.

All-day kindergarten has been a priority of the Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government, and a recent University of Toronto study said that the system is showing definite benefits.

"We measured them on vocabulary, early reading, number knowledge, early writing, we did an interview about how they solve social problems, and a drawing task," said Dr. Janette Pelletier. "In almost every area, the full-day kindergarten kids were ahead of the half-day kindergarten kids."

CBC reporter Nil Koksal said Wednesday that she spoke to parents who support all-day kindergarten, but don't want it to diminish schooling elsewhere.

John Weatherup, president of the CUPE local that represents office staff and educational assistants who could be laid off, said the losses would be set the board "backwards 10 years, where even Mike Harris's government did not want to go.

"These jobs were important then. They're important now."

Trustees will vote on the proposals during a meeting on March 28.