High School Graduation At Risk After Ford’s Cuts, Says Ontario Student
17-year old Samuel Bengert returned to his high school in Mississauga, Ontario earlier this week ready to get down to work completing his final year before — he hoped — heading to Ryerson University for Film Production in 2020.
He was in for an unwelcome shock.
Bengert had registered for eight classes — enough to earn his high school diploma and fulfill the requirements for his University application. But on Tuesday, he was handed a class schedule that included just six classes. Two of Bengert’s classes had been cut without warning.
“The schedule they had set up for me did not include enough credits to graduate, nor enough university-level courses to apply for University,” Bengert told North99 in an interview this week.
Bengert setup an appointment with his guidance counselor in an attempt to rectify the situation but the administration has thus far been unable to fully replace Bengert’s cut classes, putting at risk both his application to University and his ability to graduate from high school on time.
“They ended up replacing my Data Management course for a Indigenous Studies course, and placed me on the waiting list to attend my communications course,” Bengert explained. “I still do not have enough University courses to attend University, and if I do not make it into [the] communications course, I will not have enough courses to graduate.”
Bengert is not alone. School boards across Ontario have been forced to cut classes in the wake of the Ford government’s education cuts. In June one school board announced they would be cutting 123 high school courses. Other students across the Province have reported similar problems with their class schedules. Bengert explained that many of his peers were already feeling the impact of the cuts.
“Most people I know have had at least one course cancelled,” he said, adding that the remaining classes were also over-crowded, something that was not the case in prior years. “I don’t know how much the average class size is, but my classes have between 30 and 35 kids in them, which is around 10 more than I recall there being last time. There’s not a single empty chair in the class most of the time.”
Bengert is quick to add that he does not blame the school or his teachers for his predicament. “I do not blame my school for this at all. They’ve been placed in an incredibly cramped and depressing situation, and they’re doing the best that they can,” he says. “The school administration has been totally overwhelmed with the amount of people who need their courses changed, but they’re definitely trying their hardest. I have nothing but respect for my teachers and staff.”
The Ford government’s education cuts have been deep and extensive. Since coming into power, Ford has rolled out plans to fire over 3,000 teachers, increase class sizes, and cut hundreds of millions of dollars from education spending.
Social media was flooded this summer with stories of teachers laid off in the wake of Ford’s cuts. Catholic School teacher Chris Cowley tweeted a photo earlier this week of 39 desks jammed into one math class at a Brantford school.
As the school year begins, parents, teachers, and students like Samuel Bengert are feeling the harmful effects of Ford’s cuts. Asked if he had a message for the Premier, Bengert — with his high school diploma and University education threatened — does not mince words: “When you run your school like a business, you end up abusing the fuck out of your workers.”