The last week has contained some interesting back-and-forth on the rollout of the Early Learning Program (full-day kindergarten as it's known to the rest of the world outside government).
Last Wednesday, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada released a report titled 'The cost of a free lunch-- the real costs of the Pascal early learning plan for Ontario.'
The 'Coles notes' version of the 16-page report goes something like this: the ELP, as proposed by Pascal or as implemented by the government, is horrendously expensive and shouldn't be implemented. Give parents and families that money instead.
It references the Quebec experience, where $5-a-day -- now $7-a-day -- childcare is a reality. While there is no doubt its implementation there was fraught with challenges (and still is), the reliance of the IFMC on this one program as the bad example is troubling. I also found it interesting to note several inaccuracies within the body of the report itself where you can tell the research and writing ended before some of the more detailed information on implementation was made available.
I was also troubled by citations in the report, that when you checked the footnotes, refer to anecdotal information. This doesn't help the credibility of the message.
IFMC also breaks out the alarmist language when referring to the entire 0-12 spectrum of programming and support services, which in and of itself has to be seen as different than full-day kindergarten. That's a spectrum that includes Ontario Early Years Centres, Best Start centres, Parent and Family Literacy Centres, etc. The components Pascal mainly addressed were the introduction of items where there are currently gaps-- such as full-day kindergarten along with before- and after-school programs.
Counter that with the Toronto First Duty phase II research and report (news release, exec summary, full report) released Friday, pointing to the fact that for the implementation of the ELP to work, there are four key things that need to be addressed: an integrated staff team, integrated approaches to early childhood services, integrated service delivery and parent participation.
Most media, from the little I was able to notice on the day of release, focused on the report's notion that early childhood educators need more parity with their kindergarten teacher ELP colleagues if the program is to be a real success.
Meanwhile, Nov. 30 was deadline day for the submission of potential first-year sites to the Ministry of Education-- one that most boards met. It's been interesting to see the news alerts from my chain pop up over the last few days, showing which boards are going public with the sites they've submitted and which aren't. I had one board tell me yesterday they're keeping the list under wraps because they don't want families to switch neighbourhoods to take advantage of a first-year ELP program only to learn in January the government didn't approve that site.