As election platforms and policies are revealed this week, child care advocates are calling on all political parties to do more to solve Ontario’s child care crisis. The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) is calling for:
· direct funding of child care programs to ensure a space for every child in Ontario;
· an end to public funding for commercial for-profit child care centres; and
· the implementation of the recommendations in the “Investing in Quality” report, which calls for increased compensation for early childhood professionals.
Today’s proposal by the Liberal Party to create a new, full-day pre-school program adopts the principles set out by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care of universality, and not-for-profit and public administration of early learning and care. If the Liberal plan proceeds with “teaching teams”, it could validate the skills of early childhood educators, recognizing that they are specifically trained in early childhood development.
While a full-day preschool program could free up 20,000 child care spaces, this alone does not solve the child care crisis for children and their parents. There are 508,000 children under five years old in the province and only 135,000 licensed child care spaces.
Other, significant unresolved issues include levels of funding for existing community based early learning and child care programs, inadequate wage and benefit levels for early childhood professionals, the governance of the new preschool programs, parental involvement and the status of child care centres and staff in schools.
“We look forward to working closely with all political parties and the next Government in addressing the critical issues facing Ontario children and families,” said Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director of the OCBCC.
The New Democratic Party has yet to announce its plans to address the child care crisis. Advocates are also hoping that the Progressive Conservative Party will add to their existing commitment to “continue to invest in early childhood education, building on the success of the early years centres”. Considering that Early Years Centres do not directly provide child care, this policy will not ease the crisis in Ontario’s child care system.
Years of underfunding and policy neglect have resulted in a patchwork system where high-quality programs struggle to maintain their standards and keep their doors open, and the majority of children don’t have access to a licensed child care space.