The emergency meeting was called to discuss chronic underfunding and impacts from full-day kindergarten on Toronto child care programs. 125 child care providers, board members and parents gathered to learn from the experiences of child care programs running the extended day programs.
September will mark the 4th of a 5 year implementation timetable for full-day kindergarten. The meeting heard many concerns about impacts on child care - inadequate capital funding for extended day programs, high fees, loss of lunch programs, child care centres paying capital funding to enable school rooms to be licensed, lunchtime supervision, split shifts and lower wage scales for staff, lack of collaboration from school systems, lack of leadership from school boards and the province.
While extended day programs ought to be full cost recovery, the amount charged is capped meaning some programs face further fee increases for younger children.
Discussing challenges, opportunities and solutions, we need to learn from those programs where program implementation has happened. Year 4 and year 5 will be even more challenging with the program expanding in schools without space.
However, it is clear that many of the problems of implementation can be solved by leadership.
Our city staffs needs to stand up for child care programs.
School boards need to provide rooms that can be licensed, welcome extended day programs into all parts of the school, mandate shared equipment and use of rooms and ensure that children and families continue to have access to high quality programs, including a hot lunch.
The province needs to step up with adequate funding to lower parent fees for extended day programs and child care programs. We need adequate capital funding, higher wages for professional staff and affordable fees for parents.
If you are interested in running a similar meeting in your community call Andrea at 1-800-594-7414.