Cuts to teachers could hurt school athletics

Some Toronto District School Board sports teams could be looking for coaches come September [url=]due to teacher layoffs[/url].

The board has been exploring cuts to its operating budget to address a multi-million dollar shortfall caused partly by a reduction in provincial grants, according to Ward 8 school trustee Howard Goodman.

“We were looking at a $110-million shortfall next year and we’re not allowed to run a deficit by law,” said Goodman said. “We had to find $110 million worth of savings if we were going to balance.”

In early April, the board addressed $50 million of that shortfall By laying off 430 education assistants, 200 secondary school teachers and about 20 vice-principals.

With just over 100 secondary schools run by the board, several teams stand to be affected if one of their coaches is no longer a teacher next season.

“We’ve taken out 200 high school teachers — that’s a couple teachers per school,” Goodman said. “Sports teams run on the volunteer activity of teachers and so by having fewer high school teachers we may actually have fewer teams, but it’s hard to tell.”

Nearly $60 million in cuts will be decided during a June 13 board meeting but Goodman said they are not currently exploring any options likely to have an impact on sports programs. Part of the reason for that is because sports funding is decided on a school-by-school basis.

“Sports does not have a separate line in the (board’s operating) budget,” Goodman said. “It’s something that happens at the school. They fund it out of their school budget and activity fees.”

Northern Secondary School principal Ron Felsen said sports programs at his school tend to cost more than others. Although Northern has strong football and hockey programs — which tend to be relatively costly — even less expensive sports such as basketball and soccer require substitutes to be hired to cover for coaches when they attend games and tournaments.

“The Phys. Ed. budget is significantly more than my other departments,” Felsen said. “For example, Math or English would have a smaller budget.”

Swimming classes can also be quite expensive. In addition to the cost of operating the pool, the classes require two qualified instructors per class as well as the regular gym teacher.

“We don’t get any money for pool operations from the ministry and we have a lot of pools,” Goodman said. “We don’t get paid for swimming classes and it costs extra money to hire swim teachers.”

Despite the cost, Goodman said pool programs would not be cut. Felsen also said sports programs would not be cut at his school and stressed the importance of sports, and other extra-curricular activities, in the learning process.

“We talk about teamwork and all these things in their academics, organization and responsibility and self-regulation,” Felsen said.

“The actual practical application of that is are they really working as a team on a sports team? Do they have the time management skills to juggle sports and athletics and their outside activities?

“I think sports teach them a lot of working with one another and a lot about commitment.”