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December 19th, 2010:

McGuinty backs down… again…

It is clear that leadership at Queen’s Park means caving to special interests whenever the going gets tough.

Headlines:

Sex Ed opponents claim victory in Ontario

Liberals hear consumers’ cry, vow to retool eco-fee

Ontario Ombudsman: Province used ‘dubious’ powers for Toronto G20

Caving to religious groups, anti-tax advocates and Stephen Harper – in that order.

And now they have backtracked on their plan to provide single provider before and after care in Ontario’s school system. Now, instead of having on-site before and after care provided through the local School Board, third party operators will now have the opportunity to provide these services.

But Trashy, you say, isn’t this a GOOD thing? I mean, you’re involved with a local not-for-profit daycare, won’t this mean more business for you.

No, not at all. This latest flip flop is the result of the Ontario Liberals caving to a few very large daycare operators. Check out this headline from the Owen Sound Sun Times:

Locals applaud daycare decision

Yay for the locals!

But wait… what provider is quoted in the story?

The Y is heavily involved.

“We’re probably the largest provider in Grey and Bruce of before-and after-school care. We have 18 programs within the Bluewater school board and the Catholic school board and we serve probably in the neighbourhood of 600 to 700 children and families,” Dennis Morrison, centre manager for the Family Y, said.

Big time operator, the YMCA.

And the School Boards? They didn’t like the idea of seamless all-day early learning one bit.

“It was not a business we wanted to go into,” Marnie Coke, the superintendent of elementary education with the Bluewater District School Board, said Thursday.

See, here’s the problem with having before and after care provided separately from the Board:

The proposed amendment announced by the premier institutionalizes the divide between education and care and the split in the child’s day. It undermines the professionalism of Early Childhood Educators who bring the all-important play-based learning to children’s programming, relegating them to part-time workers whether employed in kindergarten classroom or after school child care.  The perennial problem of finding and keeping qualified ECEs who are willing or able to work split shifts will be exacerbated, compromising program quality.

For large institutional providers like the Y, it’s not a big concern since they have an enormous staff pool from which to select. Smaller, not-for-profit Centres have nowhere near as much flexibility and it will be difficult to attract and retain staff with promises of split shifts and few paid hours.

I, and others, have talked about the need for a greater education community. If School Boards are truly concerned about the quality of preparation for the school-years – be it at the child’s home, a for-profit institutional daycare or one of the smaller not-for-profits, then Boards everywhere in Ontario should build a better partnership with all pre-school care providers. Don’t freeze them out – but rather open a dialogue with the broader community. And do it soon! Are you listening, OCDSB?

From Randall Denley:

Kim Hiscott is the executive director of Andrew Fleck Child Care Centres. She says McGuinty’s plan might not be viable because it leaves organizations like hers with unattractive pieces of work at the beginning and end of the school day.

It would be difficult to attract early-childhood educators (ECEs) to work a split shift with less than full-time hours, Hiscott says.

The problem will be made worse by an impending shortage of ECEs, caused by school board hiring.

The grand plan McGuinty originally endorsed called for a seamless day for children with an ECE there for a full day starting about 7:30, then kindergarten classes and another ECE to work until the parents pick the children up, as late as 5:45.

The modified plan will allow boards to offer kindergarten only and foist the unattractive part-time work off on the non-profit centres.

From OISE – a good summary:

The province is responding to the self-interest of a few large child care
operators and to the fears of a small percentage of parents who already have their child care needs met.  Requiring school boards to offer affordable early learning and care was designed to help the 80% of families who have no access to child care.

Dr. Pascal’s plan was sound but the Liberals in Ontario messed up the planning, administration and delivery of this good idea. Now, in typical fashion, they are making an already ad situation even worse.

Under split delivery of before and after care, the following problems will remain:

  • We have a  fragmented patchwork of programs – and this is stressful for children, parents and those in the child care industry;
  • The inefficiencies and higher costs to taxpayers will continue and the childcare fee savings the premier promised parents during the last election will not materialize.
  • Wait lists? Get used to them. Longer ones too!

WHAT DO WE NEED?

We need political leadership and champions for universally accessible, fully integrated early learning.  We need leaders in Queen’s Park who will not cave to self-interest groups less than six months after passing their own legislation. The child care issue is just the next in a long line of caving.

If you agree, let the Premier know:

https://www.premier.gov.on.ca/feedback/feedback.asp?Lang=EN or call (416) 325-1941

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