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A large crowd gathers at Queen’s Park to protest the provincial government’s recently announced changes to education during the Rally for Education in Toronto on Saturday, April 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin Published Saturday, April 6, 2019 9:38AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 6, 2019 2:28PM EDT

Thousands of educators from across the province gathered at Queen’s Park on Saturday to protest the planned elimination of more than 3,000 teaching jobs over the next four years and call on the province to boost funding for education.

The province has indicated that it intends to cut 3,475 full-time equivalent teaching positions through attrition, starting with 1,558 positions this fall.

The elimination of the positions is expected to result in a savings of $851 million over four years; however the plan has drawn the ire of both teachers and students.

Today’s rally, which got underway at 12 p.m., was jointly organized by five unions that represent public school teachers in the province.

It came just days after thousands of students at more than 600 schools across the province participated in walkouts to protest changes to the education system.

“They are talking about taking thousands of teachers out of the education system and that is going to result in enormously enlarged class sizes, large class sizes where kids can’t get the individual attention that they get right now. But it also means taking away class choices,” Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation President Harvey Bischof told CP24 ahead of the rally. “Every teacher who is cut out of the system leaves with six class options that they could otherwise give, so kids are not going to have the choice of the arts, the music, the technology that they have access to right now and that lead them to futures that they want to select for themselves.”

The provincial government announced in March that it would increase the average class size in Grades 9 through 12 to 28 from 22. The province also said that it would slightly increase the average class size in Grades 4 to 8 from 23 to 24.

Speaking with CP24 prior to the start of the rally, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond said that teachers and parents across the province are committed to “taking a stand against the cuts that this government is proposing.”

“Listen we already have a world class, sustainable education system in Ontario and these tens of thousands of people are here today to ensure that we maintain that system,” he said.

Union officials have said that over 170 buses transported educators to today’s rally from communities across the province from communities across the province.

In a message posted to Twitter on Saturday morning, Premier Doug Ford did not directly address the rally but he did say that his government will “not be distracted from making the necessary reforms to create a sustainable, world-class education system that protects what matters most for students.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, however, told attendees at Saturday’s rally that “the public education system is hanging by a thread and the premier is about to cut that thread.”

“We are here to see ‘No, that is not what we want in our province.’ We are saying no to talking a billion dollars out of our public education system,” she said.

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