Ontario Government Abandons Pascal Vision

On Wednesday December 15th, Laurie Monsebraaten and Kristin Rushowy of the Toronto Star published an article suggesting that the Province of Ontario was planning on giving up on board-delivered extended day programming for the full day learning program.

The article explained that:

"Under the change, schools may still have on-site after-school programs, but most will be run by outside operators.The benefit of school boards providing the care, as envisioned by Pascal, is that the in-class curriculum could be linked to after-school activities. As well, it provides a “seamless day” for children, who would interact with the same staff and face fewer transitions throughout the day, all considered optimal for young learners.

Without it, the province’s full-day program is no longer the unique and groundbreaking program it’s touted to be…"

To read the full article, please click here.

The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care wrote an open letter to Premier McGuinty, copying Minister Leona Dombrowsky, Pam Musson, Jill Vienneau, and Jim Grieve, emphasizing our concern about what this means for the seamless, and universal nature of the program as well as the fact that this will not stabilize our already weakened sector.

In stepping away from its original commitment to an integrated extended day program, the Province is making an alarming move away from the comprehensive system that Ontario’s families and communities were promised and continue to need. Allowing third party providers to operate the extended day and year programs of this system is a move away from a publicly operated and universal system that would have supported Ontario’s families and communities.

By not being board-delivered, this removes the assurance that these programs are: not-for-profit, have access to rent-free space in schools, are available in all schools, and are able to offer salaries comparable to those in the school board. Not only is there an issue of serious wage gaps and lack of benefits for our Early Childhood Educators, but having third party providers for the extended day portions of the program perpetuates the trend of shift work and part time employment for our ECEs; a trend that the Early Learning Program promised to change. In introducing new legislation and regulations, the Province must ensure these elements of the program are not only covered, but guaranteed; otherwise the quality and seamless nature of our new early learning program will be drastically undermined.

The existing child care system, which is seriously underfunded, does not have the capacity to meet the changing demands placed on the sector. Parent fees have now reached a breaking point for middle class families, and unacceptable waiting lists for subsidies mean that many parents are unable to be part of Ontario’s workforce. It is imperative that this government address the need for stabilization funding as well as operating funding in the upcoming provincial budget. To read the full letter, please click here.

Eduarda Sousa of the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario noted that this means more child care workers will be relegated to shift work without benefits or stable work hours.

Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, said in a press release:

"The Pascal report was always about more than 'full-day Kindergarten.' It was about a bold vision of an integrated system of childcare and family supports to prepare our province for the 21st century. It also required the province to provide school boards with the necessary supports and resources to properly roll out the program—something that hasn't happened so far."

To read the full release, please click here.

A statement put out by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) said that:

"One of the important benefits of the full-day learning and care program was the recognition it gave to the expertise of ECEs as partners in the kindergarten team and working full-time in a single year-round program. Contracting with separate third-party providers could change this picture significantly."

To read the release, please click here.

Offering a different perspective, the Niagara Region put out a statement saying that offering boards the option to continue partnering with third party providers was a positive move by the government, and that the model was working well in Niagara. To view this statement, please click here. We must remember the impacts of such an announcement on the whole sector and all of our communties and families.

People for Education put out a press release and status report on Early Learning in Ontario in response to this announcement.

“Ontario had a chance to be far ahead of other provinces in providing seamless and cohesive policy and programs for children from birth to age 12,” said Annie Kidder, Executive Director of People for Education. “But now, like other provinces, we’ll have all-day kindergarten without a coherent and comprehensive policy to support it. Today, we’re disappointed.”

In an article in The Expositor, Michelle Ruby tried to show both the relieved and fearful reactions being found in the child care community. While some centres are hopeful this might mitigate some of the impacts of the full day learning program, many experts are quick to say this does little to stabilize the child care sector which has been chronically underfunded. Judy Friel, who operates two for-profit child-care centres in the city, said McGuinty's change of plans does little to alleviate her concerns about the early-learning program's impact on her business.

Friel said the children in her programs for four-and five-year- olds help subsidize the cost of space for younger children. When thousands of children move from child-care centres to full-day kindergarten, the cost for spaces for babies and toddlers, who require more care, is expected to go up.

For the full article in the Expositor, please click here.

Language supporting the announcement has been predominantly regarding cost-savings, but behind the seemingly positive messaging is a clear fact that there will be lower wages for staff. For example, in an article on YorkRegion.com, it stated that "although the school board hasn’t worked out all the numbers, ... offering before and after-school programs through third parties will save families about $7 per day per child. The school board’s increased costs [will] result from the difference in wages and benefits paid out for early childhood educators in the public sector versus those in the private sector..."

Unfair wages will mean continued instability in the workforce and threaten the quality of this program. For the full article on YorkRegion.com, please click here. Similar arguments were made in an article in the Sun Times of Owen Sound.

For an article on the subject from the Ottawa Citizen, please click here.

To read the original article from the Toronto Star, please click here.

Other news coverage on this issue:

The Globe and Mail

Another article in the Ottawa Citizen

Randall Denley: Day-care reversal the latest costly flip-flop - Premier’s pattern is all-too-familiar

The Windsor Star

The National Post


The Record.com

The Intelligencer