Toronto School Board attacked by mainstream media over misunderstood French cuts

Written By Neil McKenzie-Sutter, Posted on July 29, 2020

Although no final decision has been made and won’t be until Aug. 4, the Toronto District School Board and Ford Provincial government have recently taken heat in the mainstream media for the stated reason that the TDSB may cut some French education programs in the coming school year.

On the surface level, this appears as a strange move by the Ford PC’s and the TDSB, since they are publicly exploring different options for reopening classes for the fall semester and one of these stated options, a hybrid model, involves a mix of online and classes in physical school buildings, might actually involve hiring 2000 or more extra teachers. 

In this hybrid model for reopening, though, it is true the TDSB has said they see the need to cut advanced French language education, as well as some transportation programs for students associated with those programs. 

This is because the school board wants to reduce class sizes in the hopes that COVID-19 will spread less effectively. Reducing class sizes has the effect of creating more actual teaching slots, therefore more teachers needing to be hired. 

Much of the Canadian mainstream press picked up on the seeming incongruity of this: if Ford and the TDSB are potentially hiring 1000s of new staff, how does it make sense they want to cut French.

The reason why the TDSB is considering cutting these programs, however, is clearly stated in a memorandum released by the TDSB on May 17th, which states the following: 

Teacher allocations will need to reflect actual enrolment. When teacher allocation is tied to enrolment, secondary schools with lower enrolment cannot offer a full range of programs for students compared to higher enrolment schools. For this reason, staff will be reviewing lower enrolment secondary schools with an eye to consolidate in an effort to boost programming options for students.

Translation: the Ford government and the TDSB is predicting lower enrolment in French language classes, compared with other classes. 

If this is the case, it seems entirely logical why the TDSB would make this move, as they are looking to cut costs if this hybrid model would be selected. 

If it is selected, the hybrid reopening model would cost an extra $250 million. It’s also important to note that the French programs potentially being cut are all for advanced learners and are optional.


If there aren’t enough students signing up for these courses, why not cut them if money is going to be tight? 

In fact, it would seem that the extra COVID-19 teachers being hired and the French curriculum cuts aren’t connected, except in how they are going to affect the TDSB’s budget. 

It’s hard to say, then, why the Canadian mainstream press is drawing a connection and generalizing the issue to encompass all French education; there was no obvious reason to. 

I’ll leave you to speculate on what the reason might be, but as a self-respecting journalist I cannot. 

Totally true or not, the PC’s have been successfully pigeonholed as anti-French/Catholic education in the past. 

Many will remember in 2007, John Tory’s campaign for the Premiership is remembered as suffering a critical setback when his education policy was successfully framed as attacking Catholic school funding, although this was incorrect.

In actuality, Tory’s proposed education policy was exploring the idea of extending provincial funding to other faith-based schools, not looking at removing funding from Catholic schools at all.

In any case, it’s important to remember no final decisions have been made on the return to school model, or any cuts to French language offerings as of yet.

Neil McKenzie-Sutter

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