The provincial government will spend $20 million a year to ensure support staff who were laid off last month return to Ontario schools — and remain there for the next three years — and another $58 million annually to help create more support for special education students.

The deal reached Sunday night between the province, school boards and the Canadian Union of Public Employees — which represents educational assistants, early childhood educators, custodians and office staff — also retained all sick day benefits but capped workers’ wage increases to 1 per cent each year.

Laura Walton, who heads CUPE’s school board unit, thanked the government late Sunday for opening the “piggy bank” and getting an agreement over the weekend, as the threat of a strike loomed.

At Queen’s Park Monday morning, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath blasted Ford for giving parents a weekend of “uncertainty.”

Scolding the premier, who has been laying low for weeks with the legislature not scheduled to resume until Oct. 28, Horwath said “recess is over” and he should get back to work.

“He needs to go back and reverse the cuts and invest in our education system,” she said.

“We ended up on the brink of chaos (Sunday) night and that’s no way to treat families or education workers for that matter.”

During negotiations, the government had focused on sick days and short-term leave. CUPE workers take an average of more than 15 days off a year, which is costly and leads to a “revolving door” of staff for students to deal with, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said.

In the end, the sides agreed to a standardized medical form for any workers seeking to take days off beyond the 11 sick days that are paid at 100 per cent, and dip into the 120-day short-term disability plan at 90 per cent pay.

The deal is said to provide consistency province-wide, given some boards had policies around doctor notes and others did not.

The $20 million fund will help the hundreds of CUPE members who lost their jobs as boards made cuts to balance their budgets, reviving 300 full-time equivalent positions with job protections for the life of the contract.

The government also reinstated a yearly $58.3 million fund, which is mainly for educational assistants for students with special needs.

CUPE also negotiated a separate, $600,000 annual fund that will pay for custodians to work after-hours when community groups take out permits to use school facilities.

The government did not renew a professional development fund of roughly $4.5 million.

John Weatherup, president of Toronto Education Workers CUPE Local 4400, said the deal will return 60 to 70 special education staff to the city’s public schools.

“It still won’t be enough, but at least it’s putting people back into the classrooms,” he said.

Meanwhile, the education strife in Ontario continued to impact the federal election as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau campaigned in Ottawa with teachers affected by Premier Doug Ford’s decision to increase class sizes.

He said, “the cuts the Ontario government has made to education are impacting not just teachers and schools, but kids and families as well.”

The Liberal chief noted “a lot of parents across the province breathed a sigh of relief that they won’t have to find emergency daycare today because of the challenge with the CUPE … support workers.”

But, he added, “the reality is that the cuts that Doug Ford has already brought into education are … being felt right across the province,” said Trudeau, a former teacher who has children in Ontario’s public system.

In Ottawa, federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, a father of five, expressed relief that there was no school strike Monday.

“Like all parents in Ontario, I’m glad that kids will be in school,” said Scheer, whose campaign was concerned the Tories could be hurt if Ford was blamed for workers hitting the bricks.

“If there’s one parent who’s disappointed in the strike action being resolved today, it’s Justin Trudeau,” he said.

“It’s quite disgusting he was trying to politicize kids’ education for his own personal, partisan gain.”

Scheer, who again avoid uttering the name “Ford” in public, stressed he did not consult with anyone in the provincial government about the potential labour disruption.

The federal Liberals have been tying the Tories to Ford’s government in a bid to help Grit candidates in Ontario, where 121 of 338 seats are up for grabs.

University of Toronto Professor Charles Pascal, a former deputy minister of education, said, “as predicted, the provincial government totally caved due to the political pressure from federal cousins” to avoid a strike during the pre-election period.

Pascal, of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, said that as well, “the pressure from parents and the public at large was clearly on the side of CUPE workers. And true to form, the minister ran to the front of the parade to take credit for avoiding a mess of his own creation.”