Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blizzard's take on implementing Pascal

This Christina Blizzard column caught my eye-- ran in the TorSun over the weekend and will likely get picked up by a wide variety of Ontario papers this week as it gets tossed on editorial pages for local papers to run. Blizzard is Sun Media's designated Queen's Park columnist, who rarely writes about education. Given Minister Kathleen Wynne's assertions that some details about the first year of implementation of the Pascal report on early learning will be released in the coming weeks, it became Blizzard's column of the day.
Let's face it, kids at that age can only take in so much learning. It isn't necessary to have a teacher in the classroom the whole day.
Pascal's plan makes sense. Why pay a teacher's salary for a full day when kids of that age are more likely to spend most of the day glueing pasta to paper or making monsters out of Play-Doh? Why pay teachers to be babysitters?
The problem is, the government owes the teacher unions -- big time. They contributed huge amounts of money to Liberals in the last election.
I think Wynne's dilemma speaks to a bigger problem. I believe it is a conflict of interest for public sector unions to contribute to election coffers. Essentially, they're giving money to their employer. Is it any wonder the government constantly caves in to their salary demands?
In this case, they are trying to influence public policy. It is simply wrong for a union to have a disproportionate say on how a program will be delivered. It is wrong for them to influence how taxpayers' money will be spent.
She makes a point, one that I'm hesitant to agree with. Despite the coalition of federations that pumped mucho dollars into election ads to elect and re-elect McGuinty, Wynne and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario are not what I would call bosom buddies. ETFO members have already seen that in their smaller retro cheques and lower salary increases after their latest contracts compared to their peers teaching high school and working in French and Catholic schools. The move towards salary parity amongst teachers is gone, at least until the next round of negotiations. ETFO bit the hand that fed it in negotiations and its play for full-day kindergarten is, in my eyes, a thinly veiled attempt at doing nothing more than increase the number of school staff members paying it dues. For their own sake, I hope ETFO members don't abandon this government and toss their support behind another party-- it could have disastrous results as it did in 1995.
I do object, however to Blizzard's characterization that Pascal's recommended model of full-day learning is nothing but a daylong babysitting service. She must have missed the part in Pascal's report and other early learning reports pointing to the importance of learning through play such as crafting things out of Play-Doh and glueing macaroni to things. She also gives opposition leader Tim Hudak his space to promote his perspective on early learning-- which given he was one of the leadership contestants to come out against Pascal in his campaign is only telling.
Blizzard's best point? This one:
Here's what I hope won't happen.
I don't want to see high-powered parents putting pressure on trustees and school boards to get full-day kindergarten in up-market schools.
The neediest schools -- where parents can't pay for decent daycare -- should be the priority for this program.


Anonymous said...

I will never use the program but I do support the ECE over certified teachers running these programs..for the reasons Blizzard suggests.

A tandem team approach would be the best of both worlds.

Although if you asked teachers in the system now they'd likely tell you that they do babysit kids already.

Given the patchwork nature of this province I'm concerned that a one-size fits all program is going to be rolled out to boards that are either already making good use of their schools out of necessity or don't have a demographic similar to those larger centres...which would see a very different type of program needed.

RetDir said...

ER - great comment about full-day learning as opposed to full-day kindergarten. ECEs have skills kindergarten teachers don't in this regard, realizing (and being trained to know) that play, sometimes designed, equals learning. I have serious reservations about what is happening to kindergarten programs in the push for student achievement (way too much paper and pencil stuff in the average kindergarten, and not enough developmentally appropriate activity - absolutely the program, along with Grade One, that has suffered from the drive for EQAO test scores).
Full day learning made a lot of sense, and I'm not quite sure how this morphed into full day kindergarten. Good Best Start programs did this well - and perhaps that is the model we should be using?
Looking forward to the announcement about what staffing will look like in these programs.
The other part of Blizzard's article that caught my attention was her comment that unions should not be able to influence public policy. How you would enforce that is beyond me, and if they can't influence it who else shouldn't be able to - corporations, right to life organizations, the CAA, etc. etc. etc. - a bit of loony right creeping in there methinks.

Anonymous said...

as soon as this becomes a pissing match between the special interests and governments it becomes less a program for children and more a rung on someone's political agenda.

Retired Director's last comment a case in point. Wonderful post but diminished somewhat by partisan politics. It's the curse of the system that even on a great forum like this one ER individuals can't leave politics out of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the loony right, the only loonies that will ultimately suffer will be the ones coming out of taxpayer pockets if this policy is implemented universally across the province.

If all kids will get the same "headstart" then the usual demographics will come into play (pardon the pun). Generally, affluent area kids will still come out ahead of the low income, high risk kids. This program should be targeted for lower achieveing schools in high risk areas or else what difference will it make in the long run?

The province will not be able to afford to do this anyway unless they cut costs in other areas. An aging population that requires more health care will trumph declining school enrolments. We can't pay for it all.

Anonymous said...

That was a cheap shot by the RetDir.
and one that we rarely see here...which is why I visit from time to time because it's so unlike the other partisan vehicles where political gamesmanship seems to trump and eventually squash a discussion based on what's good for children.

One lesson I've learned long ago is that those within the education some in all political stripes - some never let it go. That, in my view is what's wrong with the whole system.