I've yet to hear of a school board in Ontario that isn't recoiling from the requirement they start setting, charging and collecting fees for the mandatory before- and after-school component of the full-day for four- and five-year-olds. Was it in the Pascal report? Not so overtly, though he did recommend the Ministry of Education become the sole and lead ministry for the gamut of children's services, all of which would be tied into the school-centred community hub of early childhood services and education. The ministry is doing just that-- and telling boards as it can, they will run all aspects of the early learning program. Which means no partnerships with childcare providers or children's services programs for the ELP kids, as the staff members must be board employees running the ministry program.
The memo makes this clear, and former minister Kathleen Wynne was quite clear about it as well during what would be my last interview with her after the year-one sites were announced on Jan. 12.
As to the level of fees, the memo provides the basis for a formula with plenty of caveats. It's all based on the wage that boards would pay these early childhood educators, and once the federations get involved (I don't see them standing by and allowing this new employee group to go unrepresented) those wages will undoubtedly by higher than the pittance many ECEs are paid today.
The before- and after-school program costs would be based on:
- ECE wages (board determined) as well as wages for any program assistants if more than 13 children are present
- Benefits at 24.32% of salary
- Vacation pay at 13.4% of salary
- PD for ECEs at 2% of salary
- ECE supply coverage at 5% of salary
- An undetermined amount for school operations (heat, lights, etc. -- board determined)
- Up to 10% vacancy allotment for empty spaces
- Program costs (example, $1 to $3 a day)
- Snacks, if provided (example $2 a day per child)
- Internal collection costs
The memo takes one responsibility off school boards' shoulders they had feared would end up in their domain-- fee subsidy. To-date, that will remain the responsibility of the local municipal service managers. They do this today.
Given the reality that these 4- and 5-year-olds (along with any programs for older elementary school-aged kids) are pure profit centres for childcare providers, if the programs are cheaper, they'll lose this income. They're losing income regardless since most schools are half-day or alternate-day and in full-day schools the kids will be unavailable to childcare programs for a larger portion of the week. That's the CBC story, with providers now asking the government to loosen the Day Nurseries Act and increase the caregiver-child ratio for younger kids. These youngest childcare attendees are money losers for childcare providers since they have to staff the programs with more people than for a school-age program.
As predicted by Pascal, these first few years of implementation will be messy. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made. This is part of why he recommended phasing in as well-- so that Ontario isn't stuck with problems in the program and can tweak and refine as it expands to full implementation. I suspect the relationship between school boards, the before- and after-school components and childcare / children's services programs will be one of the elements that will be retweaked.