Geoff Johnson: It makes sense to transfer child care to Department for Education

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta administer all aspects of early learning and child care through designated branches of their ministries of education. respective education.

The recently announced transfer of responsibility in British Columbia for the administration of an affordable and accessible child care system from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to the Ministry of Education has not gone out of nowhere.

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta administer all aspects of early learning and child care through designated branches of their ministries of education. respective education.

Then there is Quebec. Established in 1997, the “Quebec model” is a bit different, with its low-cost, not-for-profit, directly-funded daycare/learning centres.

Quebec has been considered to be at the forefront of managing child care and early learning programs and has produced some interesting statistics not only in support of growth and development opportunities for early childhood participants, but on the overall economic benefits of a well-run early learning and child care system.

First, the advantages for the Quebec economy: when the Educational Childcare Services Act was passed in 1997, the activity rate of women in Quebec was four percentage points lower than that of rest of Canada. Today, he is four points higher.

Quebec women with children under three have some of the highest employment rates in the world. In addition, studies show that childcare alone has increased Quebec’s GDP by 1.7%.

Pedagogically, a 2020 report by Margaret Norrie McCain (Prosperous children, prosperous society) claims that children who regularly participate in quality early childhood education programs have higher graduation rates and better work habits and attitudes, progress in reading and math, and develop strong social skills.

Here in British Columbia, on November 8, 2019, the British Columbia Minister of Education hosted an “Early Learning Summit” which brought together school district leaders, teachers and representatives from organizations child care centers across British Columbia.

The purpose of the meeting was to hear and discuss current research and evidence on the social and financial benefits of investing in early learning and school-age child care, and to listen to school district/community stories.

The “summit” developed recommendations for a $10-a-day child care plan, including a mandate for school boards to develop and deliver child care (starting with care before and after school hours) as part of regular services. functioning of the school.

There were also design and equipment guidelines to facilitate the full-time use of public classrooms for child care.

All this gives a first glimpse of the intentions of the transfer of responsibilities to the Ministry of Education. This is a change that will not happen overnight and will be something that school counselors and staff will need to consider very carefully.

At the same time, the various agencies, corporations and community organizations that have been running successful early learning and child care programs across British Columbia for some time now will be busy decoding the Speech from the Throne, which stated that the Ministry of Education “will manage child care programs through new regional offices.

This change, when it happens, will be a new role for school districts and raises more questions than it answers — for now, at least. Will there be a new branch of the Department of Education, or will school districts have to take on some as yet undefined responsibilities?

If school districts are to play a role in change, they will seek, among other considerations, evidence of separate operating and capital budgets to support new child care locations or to expand uses of existing school buildings.

The money that accomplishes all of this is expected to be new money from the 2021 federal budget, which proposed an investment of up to $27.2 billion over five years for revamping child care and learning programs. early.

A subsequent agreement between the Government of British Columbia and the federal government to significantly improve early learning and child care in British Columbia will see the federal government invest $3.2 billion of the $27.2 billion dollars over the next five years to improve early learning and child care opportunities for children under six in British Columbia

Part of this agreement includes the provision that the province should adopt policies to ensure that existing child care centers are not dislocated from local schools.

Nevertheless, on the face of it, the plan makes sense for British Columbia, not only educationally, with better access to quality child care, but also economically. A 2012 report from Toronto Dominion Economics highlighted a series of studies that showed that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the economy at large receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return. .

The devil, as always, will be in the details. Those who manage the nearly 26,000 licensed spaces created since BC’s first child care law, launched in 1996 to create an affordable, quality child care system, will be watching these details.

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Geoff Johnson is a former Superintendent of Schools.