The article explains that this month the four year phase-in of the province’s program is finally complete, and while full-day kindergarten is undoubtedly popular with parents of four and five year olds, the gradual and now complete loss of that age group from the not-for-profit child care sector has left providers in desperate straits. That’s because the costs of providing licensed care to younger children are much higher than to older children. In fact, most not-for-profit child care providers, and particularly those that pay a living wage to their Early Childhood Educators, actually lose money for every infant in their care, and can only offset those losses by serving school-age children as well.
The situation is even worse here in Waterloo Region than it is elsewhere in the province, as four years ago our local school boards made the unusual decision to directly deliver before- and after-school care to their students in grades one and two as well to their junior and senior kindergarten children, in order to make their service to the four and five year olds more viable.
Our Regional government has supported the school boards in their decision and continues to support them in the implementation of their child care programs, despite knowing that that Waterloo region’s licensed not-for-profit providers are being forced as a result to close their infant classrooms, and in some cases to close their doors completely.
Regional Council has approved changes to the funding formula, effective next year, which may provide some small relief to some providers, and the provincial Ministry of Education continues to promise, as it has been doing for four years, that changes to licensing standards that will help to reduce the costs of providing care to children from birth to age three are pending. But these measures will be too little, too late, for too many local not-for-profits, and families will suffer.
Some candidates for municipal office have been invited by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care to sign a pledge to support child care and early learning in our Region. The best way they can do that is to better support our not-for-profit child care sector.
That’s what I’ll do if I’m elected.