Durham School Board's decision to cut EAs will hurt special needs students CUPE warns

    OSHAWA, ON, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Special needs students who rely on
highly qualified and experienced educational assistants (EAs) will lose those
specialized services if the Durham School Board proceeds with their plan to
cut 19 EA positions, warns the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
    "Who will provide the quality care and assistance these dedicated EAs
have been delivering for the past ten years?" asked Don Bryans, president of
CUPE 218. "Eliminating these highly specialized positions means that special
needs students, their parents and the entire school community will suffer
needlessly. This board should be enhancing educational services, not trying to
dismantle them."
    CUPE 218 represents over 2,500 school board workers at the Durham
District School Board. There are 893 EAs of which 78 are highly specialized
and further qualified (known as EA 2s) providing care to special needs
students in elementary and high schools in Durham. The board is planning to
cut 19 EA 2 positions by September, and possibly 27 more next year.
    "EA 2s are highly qualified professionals with special expertise and
experience in assisting students with complex needs, requiring high level
attention," said Marion Moore, EA and CUPE 218 unit chair. "The board has not
explained who, if anyone, will replace the 19 EA 2s, nor have they said how
they plan to take care of special needs students who require constant, direct
educational assistance."
    The EA 2s recently went through a job evaluation process that recognized
their skills and experience to be at a higher level than what they were being
paid. The evaluation process was completed by April, and all of the EA 2s
received a wage increase to reflect the skills and requirements of their work.
    "We believe the board is targeting the EA 2s because they successfully
completed a job evaluation process that showed they were not being paid
fairly," said Bryans. "They got their raise in April and a month later they
are being told their positions will be cut in the fall. The timing of the
cutbacks will not only bring devastation for special needs students, but could
also be seen as a signal from the board to discourage other workers from
pursuing job evaluation."
    "This board must explain their decision to the parents of students who
will lose these services," said Moore. "We are urging parents to express their
concerns to the board, to press them to reinstate the EAs that help their
children every day."

    CUPE 218 members will attend the school board's finance committee meeting
on Tuesday evening, June 3, to express their outrage at the cuts and urge
school board trustees to reject plans that will hurt the quality of education
in Durham. The board plans to finalize their budget plans, including the
elimination of 19 EA 2 positions, at the June 10 school board meeting.

For further information:

For further information: Don Bryans, CUPE 218 President, (905) 571-7879;
Marion Moore, EA and CUPE 218 Unit Chair, (905) 571-7879; Betty Sommers, CUPE
National Representative, (905) 433-4760; James Chai, CUPE Communications,
(416) 292-3999

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