06/15/2009

An integrated system of early learning and child care was proposed, with 4 and 5 year olds moving to the school system and municipalities providing services for 0 to 3 year olds.
Background:

In November 2007, the Premier of Ontario announced the appointment of Dr. Charles Pascal to the position of Early Learning Advisor and asked him “to recommend the best way to implement full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds”.

With our Best Future in Mind: Implementing Early Learning in Ontario contains 20 recommendations on implementing an integrated system of early learning and child care for 0 to 12 year olds beginning in 2010. The system will engage school boards and municipalities and will be coordinated in a new Early Years Division in the Ministry of Education. This will include a new provincially funded, school-based system of early learning and child care for 4 and 5 year olds.  Children under 4 years of age would continue to be served in the municipally managed system through a network of Best Start Child and Family Centres - or “community hubs”.

By removing 4 and 5 years olds from the municipal system, the existing resources in that system would be used to better serve children under 4, with a goal of increasing access to child care for families with young children. The report suggests that municipalities will realize savings from services no longer required for children over 4 and from wage subsidies previously paid to those working with children over 4 that will remain in the municipal system. This means that municipal costs for these services should not increase as a result o these changes.

The report calls municipalities “leaders among leaders” emphasizing municipal expertise in managing and delivering early learning and child care services. AMO is pleased that the report focuses municipal responsibility on managing and delivering early learning and child care while calling on the province for increased provincial investment.

AMO and municipalities support the recommended direction for early learning and child care but are cognizant that successful implementation will require adequate resources.

Dr. Pascal’s report indicates that implementing the recommendations will cost between $790 million to $900 million a year. Currently, the provincial government has dedicated an additional $200 million for 2010 and $300 million for 2011. 

AMO is seeking clarification on the implications of the recommendation for municipalities. Some areas of concern include:

  • Provincial funding to support the transition, implementation and long term operation of the early learning and child care system;
  • Details on administrative responsibilities related to integrated planning with school boards and stakeholders including reporting requirements and the creation of the Best Start Child and Family Centres; and 
  •  The expansion of municipal responsibility for licensing child care centres.
AMO is pleased that the report and recommendations support the principles of the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review as well as the call to the Province to invest in the future prosperity of Ontario’s families, children and the economy.

Action:

AMO will be working to better understand the implications of the recommendations for municipalities.  

Understanding these implications more fully in conjunction with the Province’s commitment to investing needed additional resources will ultimately determine the municipal sector’s support for the proposed changes.