The problem doesn’t go away when we cut services

12 January 2023

The recent decision of the Centre de services scolaire du Pays-des-Bleuets to reorganize its services in response to the effects of the labor shortage is surprising.

At the beginning of the school year, the same organization had a waiting list for parents who wanted their child to attend school daycare.  The labor shortage was proving to be a big problem, with 250 places needing to be found.  Another school service center in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region has decided to offer training to 5th and 6th grade students so that they can stay home rather than remain at school after school hours.

The situation is critical because daycare educators are working with groups whose ratios have already been exceeded. And special education technicians are exhausted because they are always in a state of urgency.

The labor shortage leads to cuts in essential services to children.  Schools are constantly looking for solutions to solve these problems.  We can cut 4-year-old kindergarten classes and ask even more of our overworked staff, but this would solve nothing and only shift the problems somewhere else.

School organizations must deal with budgetary regulations that lead them to make administrative decisions to balance their books without taking into account the needs of the children.  They offer 12-hour positions to educators who end up finding jobs elsewhere that offer more hours, when they could easily stay and provide other services to students.  We are forced to live with the impacts of the ways in which these financial problems are managed.

The decisions administrators make just shift problems elsewhere and the temptation becomes even greater to cut and stretch the elastic to a point of no return, which has now been reached. Students must make do with basic services and staff working conditions are deteriorating a little more each day. The government has repeated that education is a priority ad nauseum, but this must be backed up with concrete actions.  Ministerial directives all too often fail to reach the community and the fear of budget cuts in the next provincial budget looms over their forecasts.

School organizations are now planning for the next school year, and they still do not know if current budgetary measures will be renewed. The school year begins in September, not January.  This means that organizing educational services is always at cross purposes, while other ministries operate within fiscal years.

Our federation members are constantly telling us about administrative aberrations that affect services offered to students and only worsen working conditions.  We don’t need to recruit new people; we just need to keep them on the job.

4-year-old kindergarten classes and school daycare services are a necessity; they were created to meet needs that continue to grow each year.  The quality of services to students is being negatively affected when they need to be maintained and improved.  We must avoid finding ourselves having to acknowledge failure and realizing too late these negative impacts on our youth.  We must do everything possible to ensure that our education system fulfills its mission.

Éric Pronovost, President of the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ)