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TDSB approves budget full of cuts

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees have managed to erase a $109-million shortfall from the books but had to make some drastic cuts to do it.

At a meeting Wednesday night, trustees voted in favour of shutting down as many as 32 school cafeterias, reducing professional development by $4.5 million and cuts to continuing education and English as a second language (ESL) programs.

The board will now also charge outside groups an extra 41 per cent for using its facilities during after-school hours — a move trustee Cathy Dandy claims is a big mistake.

“All the work we’ve done over the past few years to open up our schools, to get people in them, to provide programming for marginalized youth … that’s been really, deeply damaged — probably wiped out,” she said.

Amid the controversial decisions, the board is reaching out to the provincial government to stave off further cuts to special education, student services and grants for local schools. It wants the province to help find an additional $1 million in savings.

The union representing 12,000 TDSB employees, CUPE Local 4400, denounced the cuts and the province’s school funding system.

“As a society, we are responsible for educating our children,” Local 4400 president John Weatherup said in a statement. “Failing to provide the necessities for their well-being in terms of education is nothing short of abandonment.”

“Dalton McGuinty, whoat one time prided himself as the ‘education premier’, has failed to fix the funding formula for education. The responsibility for these cuts lies squarely on his shoulders. He must now intervene at the TDSB before more damage is done.”

In April, the TDSB laid off hundreds of teachers and office staff for a savings of $85 million.

Members voted to cut 200 full-time secondary school teachers, along with 134 school office positions, one high school vice-principal, 17 elementary vice-principals and 430 educational assistants. In addition, two aquatics instructors, six school based safety monitors, 10 caretaking staff and four special education support staff were cut.