Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ELP roll out

What a day to be ill. Life has a coincidental way of unraveling itself.
Tuesday was the big day, the day details on the implementation of the "Early Learning Program," the most recent government jargon for full-day kindergarten, was rolled out by Premier Dalton McGuinty and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne in Toronto. As usual, no shortage of media coverage, although I'll note with some interest Tyler Kula at the Sarnia Observer was one of the first clips I saw Tuesday to spell out for his readers what the first year of the roll out would mean for his readers: roughly a dozen schools.
Of note, Moira MacDonald chimes in today as well, noting the financials of the implementation decision over the other factors.
The ministry released a so-called "B-memo" yesterday to all school boards, accompanied by a series of appendices: board-by-board allocations, board-by-board funding, breakdown of the benchmark, site selection criteria and deputy minister's memo.
If anything, the ministry documents show the prep work and thought that has gone into implementation. Boards are being told to consult and plan where the first spaces will open and they have to show the ministry how they made those decisions. The good boards are already a few steps ahead on this sort of consultations -- particularly those who got further ahead in Best Start implementation before the program was axed in 2006.
My one disappointment?
I'm happy to see the mix of teachers and ECEs, but I think using both full-time goes beyond what Pascal intended in his recommendations.
Overall, Tuesday was an important step-- now the grunt work is out of the government's hands to some extent and in the hands of school boards to implement the first two years of this program. The successes and failures are going to be very closely watched, particularly with a provincial election in the fall of 2011. The full roll out of this program will be dependent on whoever is in government after 2011, so its first two years are critical to its overall survival.
I reject the argument of those who call for this program to be trimmed or axed in the face of the mounting deficit. It doesn't mean I'm not as worried about the deficit as everyone else, but this is and should be a priority program whose need has been proven. Abandoning it now would be the wrong decision, and the government's decision to stick with it is one that should be remembered by every family with young children who chooses to enroll their four- or five-year-old child in this program in the years ahead.


RetDir said...

I agree with the value of the program, ER, although I'm hoping that it is developmentally appropriate. The decision to have a joint program with ECEs and OCTs was perhaps politically necessary, but adds unnecessary expense. You can expect to hear school boards trot out the "it's not fully funded" argument as soon as they have analyzed it, since at first blush it is likely that they will be right. The 26:1 ratio at which it is funded likely won't hold water against contracts that have class size maximums in them - usually 23:1 in primary, sometimes lower. Unless ETFO is prepared to agree that this language is not relevant, given the sudden increase in their membership (unlikely), it means most classes will be smaller than 26:1. It also means for financial reasons the program may get offered in the larger schools first, where it is possible to staff more accurately to the formula than it is in smaller schools.
The Globe had an article referring to this as a legacy for the premier. I agree - and it's one of which he can be proud. It's also unlikely to be undone, as doing so would take free daycare away from a lot of parents.

Anonymous said...

because that's what school has become to too many parents RetDir "free daycare".

I expect another cock-up program that we can't afford and speaks to only those communities where two parents working is the norm and they are in the majority.

We will never be using this program so I'm hesitant to pay for it when the "experts" have done such a fantastic job so far.

The McGuinty history in government shows us that he'll get as much going on this program to frame a plank for the next election and then fail to fund it appropriately.

Same old, same old.

Education Reporter said...

Yeah. I looked at the ratio question as well-- which is an interesting mix.

Primary Class Size initiative has the 90% at 20:1, with the 10% flex to 23:1. Any supplementary class size language in contracts comes more for junior-intermediate than it would for primary since the line there is pretty clear.
Now, instead of 20:1 (which in reality is 40:1 in every board where there isn't full-day kindergarten already), you add another trained adult ECE and it becomes 26:2. Or 13:1.

The Toronto board was already doing this before it had its wrists slapped a year to two back-- using ECEs to "lower" kindergarten student-teacher ratios.

To add another ratio-- the day nurseries act stipulates clearly ratios for >5y at 5:1.

At the end of the day, two adults in a group of 26, supported by the other school- and community based resource staff is still better than one adult to 20 kids in a program that's not full day.


RetDir said...

Not arguing with that at all, ER. It's a good program, and will help a lot of kids and families. Just anticipating the ETFO response, as the ETFO contract ratios only apply to teachers, not to additional support staff being in classrooms (for example, having an EA in a classroom doesn't allow the addition of staff). And I'm assuming the Day Nurseries Act will cover the fee-based before and after school program, as it currently does for the Best Start programs that still exist.

Anonymous said...

contrary to what the first poster suggests this new program can be nixed by the next provincial government - because if it's other than the Liberals it's been reversed before.

Granted that it's still a choice for parents and isn't mandatory - like Kindergarten in Ontario, which is good.

It was suggested to me that for parents who receive the federal childcare tax credit that the McGuinty early childcare initiative, because it's "free" (although we will end up paying for it like all other things though our taxes) will be able to use their tax credit for other things. Who knew that McGuinty would be Harper's best friend?

Education Reporter said...

Interesting point.
I figure any 'saved' childcare tax credit -- which isn't enough to pay for more than a few minutes of babysitting, much less any substantive childcare -- will be 'reinvested' in before and after programs not covered in ELP.

Interesting point tho-- particular since the killing of the fed-prov childcare accord (and Best Start in Ontario) was accomplished so the federal Conservatives could offer up that credit.


retdir said...

The significant difference between free all-day kindergarten and earlier daycare initiatives is the scope, which will make it harder to axe. However, the poster does have a good point in that Conservatives may not care, knowing that most of their base remains rural (where daycare has never been a really viable option for most people), childless due to advanced age, or is wealthy enough to be able to afford daycare of their own choice.

Anonymous said...

Beyond the political spin folks here like to put on issues, the reason daycare and things like after-school programs haven't been greatly successful in rural/small town Ontario is not because they're Conservative. Far from it actually. Here in northern Ontario we're solidly NDP but the fact is that there aren't as many two parents working as there are in cities so a formal daycare or early learning programs just aren't needed.

My municipality runs its own daycare and some other parents run their own out of their homes.

We're neither old or rich and can afford a daycare but there are other things here we'd rather this money be spent on, but unfortunately this government is very urban-centric.

Anonymous said...

I simply refuse to contribute to the union agenda. We'll be choosing a neighbour for our childcare and not enrolling either child in JK or SK.

Perhaps a recreational program at 4 years old but my wife and I are not hermits. We're professionals who can work at home thanks to new technology and care for our children.

I resent having to pay for a service we don't and can't see using.

Anonymous said...

I've been away and not paying much attention to Ontario news but from what I heard later this week of this initiative some of what they're promoting is like the Peel Board of Education's Before and After-School Programs which were hugely successful, but which cost parents a small fee to have their kids in. They are essentially organized recreation programs delivered by trained individuals. There is no formal curriculum or teaching involved, but a good job for a recreationist, or former teacher, nurse, etc. Peel does their own in-house training in partnership with Sheridan College's ECE AND Rec. programs if I recall correctly.

After-school programs didn't fly in my town when tried.


Education Reporter said...

Anon Nov. 1 14:20
If you resent paying for a service you don't use then you must resent a lot of things, since it's near impossible to personally use every service your taxes help pay for. Do you resent roads you don't drive on? Public recreational and cultural services you don't use? Etc.?

This program is an important program that will pay dividends for those who choose to have their children participate and will benefit our province as a whole. Saying that takes nothing away from those parents who are able to and choose not to have their children participate— after all, generations of (some of) us have not had access to this program and done OK for ourselves.


Anonymous said...

In my own experience with Ontario's education system programs like this, driven by the centre usually end up being huge boondoggles.

Education can't be run effectively from the centre and continue to reap confidence in the system.

I lost all respect for how the system works the closer I got to the centre and saw into the bowels of the beast.

The quest for "stability" is a joke because education delivery over the decades have proved to be anything but stable - then again, I happen to believe that education shouldn't be stable, but flexible and as unique to Timmins, as it is in Toronto.

Politicans and holier-than-thou bureaucrats, and yes, some school boards and administrations lost my trust.

The public education system was very good to me as a student, as it was for my kids. That happened only because of the quality of the teachers, the school secretary and the custodians.

I simply do not trust government to roll this out in a way that's good for children.

Thanks to the optics provided by the ETFO I'm leaning more to believe that this is all about retaining control...and members.

Not about children, or our collective futures ER. Sorry, but
time will tell as to how valuable this program is to us over the long haul.

If I had to do education differently, I might choose public for my kids again. However, because the world of choice has opened up real alternatives public isn't the only choice for parents, even in small/rural communities anymore.

I'm looking at the expense of this latest full-day childcare initiative and think that I'd much rather have this money go into healthcare, seeing as though our provincial government has wasted
our money there given the mess with the H1N1 rollout and the e-health robbery of taxdollars.

When schools start to become all things to all people something gets lost. That, I fear is actual
education and skill development.

Time will tell, but I'd never advise a parent to simply accept public without some exploration of other systems, including Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Holy Smokes ER - you could write a book on this issue all by itself. Clearly this is going to be a hot one for a while.