Child Care Still a Patchwork of Underfunded Programs

The Ontario government today accounted for how it is spending $142.5 million in previously announced child care funds. The allocations mean that existing child care programs will have the funding to keep current spaces open for Ontario children and families, but does not expand the child care system.

Mary Ann Chambers, Ontario’s Minister for Children and Youth, explained how the provincial government is allocating child care funding announced in its spring budget, as well as Ontario’s share - $97 million – of funding announced by the federal government. The $142.5 million accounted for this morning includes funding to sustain licensed child care spaces and subsidies, enhance the wages and training of some child care professionals, and establish a College of Early Childhood Educators, a regulatory body for the profession.

“Today’s announcement is another patch in the patchwork of child care services across the Ontario. We need to see a government vision to directly fund child care programs, and ensure that every single child in Ontario can access early learning and child care,” said Elizabeth Ablett, Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC). “However, it is good to see the Government’s commitment to sustaining the child care spaces opened under Best Start, and to improving accessibility for aboriginal communities. No one wants to see scarce licensed child care spaces close.”

The announcement also included $25 million for salary increases for Early Childhood Educators. “Unfortunately, wages are so low for child care professionals that the increase will not lead to more professionals entering the field of early childhood education: an ECE making $17,000 will only see an increase of about $510. An ECE making $22,000 will see an increase of $660,” commented OCBCC President Shellie Bird. “This is totally unacceptable when we’re talking about the care of our children.”

Today’s announcement also allocates $2 million dollars in funding to training. The funding is insufficient to cover the needs of the 60% of child care professionals who would like to gain their ECE diploma and other qualifications in order to increase quality in Ontario’s child care system.

A recently issued government commissioned report called “Investing in Quality” calls for the provincial government to directly fund child care programs, immediately increase funding to enable programs to implement substantial increases in wages and benefits, and invest in training. Advocates are demanding that the government implement the report’s recommendations immediately.