07/01/2011

Full Day Early Learning and Kindergarten Program, an AMO Backgrounder for the Ontario Provincial Election 2011.
The provincial government has been moving forward on its cornerstone policy piece, full day early learning and kindergarten, and expects to implement the program province-wide by 2014-2015. In September 2011, the second year of the program roll-out, about 50,000 four and five year olds will enter the full day program at 800 schools across Ontario.

The vision is built on a 2009 report by Dr. Charles Pascal, commissioned by Premier McGuinty, “With our Best Future in Mind,” which provided a roadmap for developing an integrated system to provide early learning and child care. This report also identified municipalities “as leaders amongst leaders” in the implementation of the government’s vision. This is because day cares centres are among the host of services that municipalities provide and are charged with overseeing.

AMO has been supportive of the government’s vision to create a system of early learning and child care, which has proven to be a critical factor in creating and sustaining a healthy and prosperous society.

For the program to succeed, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. AMO has shared its concerns about some of the potential unintended consequences of moving to this new system. These include:

  • Destabilization of local child care systems; 
  • Increased administrative and licensing pressures  on municipal staff and subsequently new costs to municipalities, including capital costs in day care centres; 
  • Negotiating a new relationship with school boards;  
  • Governance concerns and potential new funding responsibilities related to the Best Start Child and Family Resource Centres, which would provide a range of health, information, parenting and childrens’ resources; and 
  • Continued underfunding of child care in absence of federal funding.
The government has responded to some concerns by providing about $12 million in fee subsidies for the before and after school program and $51 million over six years in stabilization funding for child care centres as four and five year olds move into the education system.

AMO and municipalities can play an important role in ensuring a strong foundational policy and program approach is put in place. Critical to this is the government’s commitment to engage AMO and municipalities on issues of governance, implementation and funding. Ultimately though, the issues of appropriate funding and access through affordability must be addressed.