Regardless, the authors of the op-ed are scaremongering.
Originally, the government had appeared to accept the idea that extended-day programming should be part of the education system. By opening up a part of the system to third-party providers, however, it has raised the spectre of cheaply run services delivered by low-paid workers incapable of ensuring either quality learning or child care.Let's do a very quick reality check to temper some of the authors' concerns.
This approach would fail to maximize the anticipated benefits of an integrated system and simply recreate the kind of fragmentation we are trying to leave behind.
Instead, the ministry should mandate that all services be public, that a system for managing consistency and quality be established, and that schools be available for holiday programs, reinforcing the year-round component of the original report.
How many for-profit childcare operators are there in Ontario?
Huzzah to the boards singled out in the piece, but how many of those boards (and others) have existing arrangements with childcare agencies to run programs in their schools?
How many boards run their own before- and after-school programs?
Before the welcome introduction of full-day kindergarten, how many boards even employed early childhood educators for childcare services?
If I were to guess, since I don't know all the answers to these questions concretely, I'd say: Few if any, virtually all, a minority and almost none.
Ontario's childcare and children's services agencies are already in our schools. They're already licensed by the provincial government -- usually under the Day Nurseries Act. The education ministry has been consistent in saying the extended-day kindergarten program has to follow the provincial curriculum regardless of who runs it-- a bigger requirement than existing childcare curriculum, which is not regulated. The YMCA (full disclosure, I've worked part-time at Ys for over 10 years), a registered non-profit, is the province's largest childcare operator-- and its Ontario associations are already in many schools. It's followed, I would suspect, as a collective group, by municipally run childcare services, and then by other community based non-profits or not-for-profits.
I highly doubt this is the case of some greedy, for-profit devil waiting behind the door to pounce on a money making opportunity in extended-day kindergarten programs. If there were piles of money to be made in this sector the private sector would already be all over it and it's not. Certainly the boards and children's services agencies already active in the sector would tell anyone this is at best a revenue-neutral sector, even with the comparatively poorer wages and benefits paid to non-school board ECEs.
If a board already has a partnership with a children's agency to run an extended-day program in its school buildings, why couldn't that agency continue to run its programs for six-to-13-year-olds and the related and provincial-curriculum compliant kindergarten program? At the same time, if a board finds a suitable agency in the area that can take on these programs with its own resources rather than bringing in more board-rate ECEs and bureaucracy, why shouldn't they be allowed to do so? I haven't even gotten into fees, which boards are not eager to get involved in and existing children's services agencies are already accustomed to working out with the different municipalities through which childcare subsidies flow. The key, and there's nothing to suggest this won't happen, is to keep the boards in control of what happens in their schools (as they are today) and the programs compliant with the overall ministry curriculum.
The only less-than-positive thing I see here is that the extended-day staff members don't have a routine and regular presence in the classroom, as they would if they were board employees with one staffing the before-school hours and the other the after-school hours. That's minor when compared to looking at the bigger picture of implementing this program in a full-day format.