Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ELP's impact on childcare providers

This story has poked its head out several times in the last month or so, as school board administrators and trustees begin to realize the impact of how the Ministry of Education is choosing to roll out the first year of full-day kindergarten. Two examples are a very brief item from the Brantford Expositor and another from CBC Ottawa. These revelations come out of the ministry memo from assistant deputy minister Jim Grieve, who is leading the ELP implementation.
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 appendix to the memo shows a sample, based on an ECE benchmark wage of $19.48/hr (which, at just over $37K a year, seems higher than my perception of what the average ECE makes today-- not meant as a bad thing, as I think ECEs are underpaid). The ensuing math shows a total cost for both before- and after-care at $19.37 per day. Given transportation is NOT to be provided by school boards for the 7 a.m. start or the 6 p.m. departure, I can't offhand say how that compares to what any childcare provider might be charging today for before- and after-school programs (I don't have kids), but I strongly suspect it's less.
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.


RetDir said...

ER - you have hit on one of the main issues that boards will be faced with during implementation - the costs of the program. I would agree that $19.37 will look good to the people toiling in the non-unionized daycares, but for unionized daycares this is very low (especially in places like Toronto). There are a number of boards that have ECEs in their contracts, and their wage rates are currently in the high $20s. I'm guessing that by the time they are unionized, and have gone through pay equity, the hourly rate will be in the low $30s, plus benefits. Boards are then going to be faced with the question of where they find that money, or of only offering the number of programs they can afford. Wages that high will also make the before and after programs prohibitively expensive, and subsidies (already spectacularly inadequate) won't come near to opening them up for the people who need them - so back to the underground daycare world, where many people already park their children. The only consolation for boards (and, perhaps, their current partners) is that they are allowed to use partners during vacations...but it's slim consolation, since contracting out language in many contracts may prohibit this.

HBO said...

Will the curriculum change again? Will this ELP with full day JK and SK push the students to learn more at an earlier age? Will the lesson plan for the student in Grade 2 today become the lesson plan for the student in SK in 5 years?

I get that there is a need for child care. I constantly hear about the shortage in my town. I get that, for some kids, attending a program on a full-time basis will be the only stable thing in their life. I get that some kids are not up to snuff when the EQAO rolls around. This needs addressing. I get it.

I've said before that I don't know much about this program, and my comments may be a little more homespun and hokey than others, but when I hear things like "increase the caregiver-child ratio for younger kids" all I can think is there will not be enough hugs.

What does it say about the art of a good cuddle, or any sort of physical contact, in Pascal's report or the ELP?

Anonymous said...

I have long suspected that the impetus for the before and after school programs were to be developed in the image of the Peel Lunch and After School Program (PLASP) which was the first of its kind in Ontario to offer before, lunch and after school programs at a fee to the parents who selected the program for their kids. http://www.plasp.com

As a both a recreation professional and someone who was once employed with the Peel Board as a PLASP program coordinator, that having the education ministry run this entire before/after school programs is asking a bit much.

What of the community recreation programs set up after school? Will they suffer along with the private daycare providers? How does a community YMCA compete with the lower cost programs, as an example?

Schools in small town have always been their community hub, and when they bleed students so too do recreation and municipal daycare providers.

Messy ER? Putting it mildly.

What happens in those communities that piloted the ELP but whose board decided against offering the program? Are the parents SOL now?

The more the layers come off of this the more I can see the point of the Thames Valley board trustee who didn't want to be in the daycare business.

I can say the same thing for municipal recreation providers who may suffer as well.

I can also see that this wasn't nearly as thought through as the gov't led us to believe it was.

Isn't that always the way?


Education Reporter said...

Anon 26 Jan. 13:36

I don't remember references to a good cuddle in the Pascal report stated in such explicit terms, but it's all a part of healthy child development, no?

The curriculum is changing-- the ministry has confirmed that and boards are expecting the new documents this spring so the teachers can be inserviced over the summer. I learned tonight a series of meetings is schedded for early February between regional ministry staff and all principals whose schools are year-one sites.

A new KG curriculum was introduced not that long ago, so this will make for some change. Schools remaining under current programs will continue with the current curriculum until their classes are converted to full-day.

I don't see a huge push (not a loud one anyway) by a particular federation to represent ECEs within school boards. However, I have noted with interest this past week the local Catholic board is including both OECTA and CUPE in its ELP committee, with the public board stating it will include ETFO. This leads me to imply that representation might be hodge-podge, the way it is for EAs, for example.

So many good questions. I would assume, based on what has been said and written to-date, that this rigid program standard only applies to the four- and five-year-old set. I would imagine that where there is demand for programming on statutory, school or summer holidays ... OR ... where there is demand for before- and after-school programming for six-to-13-year-olds that partnerships can and would continue.