emptyclassroomA school board in Windsor has laid off 90 teachers due to declining enrolment and financial difficulties. Faced with an almost $18-million deficit, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board will be welcoming only 1,000 junior kindergarten students after 2,400 graduated from high school last June.

Board supervisor Norbert Hartmann noted in an April report that half of the board’s 38 schools were “underutilized,” meaning that less than 85 per cent of space was used and not enough government funding was received to cover operating costs. One way to relieve the pressure would be to close nine average-sized elementary schools. Enrolment has dropped from 21,912 students last year to 20,885 – without full-day kindergarten added this year, there would have been even fewer students. At the current rate of attrition, by 2026-27, the board would have only 11,774 students.

This problem is not limited to schools in Windsor. A 2009 report by People for Education, School Closings and Declining Enrolment in Ontario, reports that 172 elementary and secondary schools were closing or recommended to close between 2009 and 2012, and 163 other schools were under review. This would be the greatest decline since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when schools closed after cuts to funding in education.

According to People for Education, the problem is due to decline in enrolment and an outdated funding formula based on the number of students per school. There is a drop in enrolment according to the report in all but 17 boards (out of 72 in total). There are 12 per cent fewer students in Toronto and Windsor schools since 2002, but some boards in northern Ontario have seen a decline of more than 20 per cent.

A March 2009 report by the Ontario government’s Declining Enrolment Working Group said that from 2002-2003 to 2007-2008, there was a 3.4 per cent drop in publicly funded school enrolment and it projects a further 3.8 per cent drop by 2012-2013. 60 boards are expected to lose a total 97,000 students while the 12 that are growing (due to immigration) will gain 25,000 in total. The working group expects that there will be growth again before 2020 to levels slightly above 2012-2013 enrolment, driven by schools in the Greater Toronto Area, while other areas will stabilize or keep declining.

A similar problem was also noted by Dr. G. Galway of Memorial University’s Faculty of Education in Newfoundland. At a keynote address for the Atlantic School Boards Conference in January 2009, Galway, who had worked with 10 different education ministers in the province, reported that during this time, enrolment in Newfoundland had dropped 40 per cent. He attributes this to the exodus of young people from rural areas, urbanization, and declining fertility rates – the “most significant driver of enrolment decline.” On average, people living in Atlantic Canada have lower birth rates than the national average, and it had a major impact on the number of students. In 1964, enrolment was at 145,000 and at the time when Galway gave his presentation, it was at 70,000 – a 50 per cent decline – and is expected to drop by over 10,000 in the next 10 years.

According to Statistics Canada, the national fertility rate was 1.61 in 2011, well below replacement level (2.1). Stats Can states that fewer than 5.1 million students were enrolled in publicly funded schools in 2009-2010. It was the lowest point since the Elementary-Secondary Survey was first conducted in 1997-1998.

“We’ve killed 4.5 million babies since 1969,” Mary Ellen Douglas, president of Campaign Life Coalition Ontario, told The Interim, “so should we be surprised at all that enrolment is declining? We have to get back to respect for the family and to respect for life.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported there were 92,524 abortions in Canada in 2011 (although its numbers are incomplete). With approximately 21.3 students per class in 2012 according to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the equivalent of 4,344 classes disappeared in Canada because of abortion. The Ontario government’s website states that all of the province’s primary classes have 23 students at most and over 90 per cent have 20 or less as of 2012-2013. As OHIP billing records obtained by blogger Patricia Mahoney indicate there were at least 44,091 abortions in Ontario in 2010, it may be estimated that at least 2,172 classes are missing from Ontario alone.

Some of the teachers’ unions, however, have made pro-abortion statements. In a 2011 report on their “Equity and Women’s Programs,” the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario commented that an intervention by the Canadian government to the UN Commission on the Status of Women “left out the fact that (its maternal health initiative) denied abortion rights.” An article in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation’s official newsletter about the 2011 International Women’s Day reminisces about “solidarity” that “won advances in women’s equality” such as “legalized access to birth control and safe abortion.”

The worst offender, however, is the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. In its Fall 2008 Social Justice newsletter, the BCTF alerted its readers about Bill C-484 (Unborn Victims of Crime Act), C-537 (Protection of Conscience Rights in the Health Care Profession), and C-338 (forbidding the provocation of a miscarriage after 20 weeks gestation). “The Conservative government can damage abortion rights in many other ways,” warns the union, including by allowing the defunding of abortion by provinces and assigning “antichoice MPs or bureaucrats to positions where they can implement anti-abortion measures.”

The BCTF even created a “Reproductive Rights Lesson Aid.” After an “abortion rights” history, the document gives a list of abortion and contraceptive “rights” that it claims to excerpt from the UN Children’s Human Rights Convention. In reality, the quotations come from General Comment no. 4 of the 33rd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child interpreting the Convention. The lesson plan then poses questions inviting students to give pro-abortion interpretations of concepts such as the right to privacy, education, or freedom from discrimination.

Douglas said that as the abortion rate started to cut the number of students, new specialties were invented to keep teachers employed. Ultimately, though, “they’re eliminating the people that are keeping them in business.”