Why McGuinty all-day Kindergarten is flawed

See also Sunday update at the end of this post.

The McGuinty government’s all-day Kindergarten plan is flawed for one reason and one reason alone — they were unable to say no to the teachers’ unions. As Michael Den Tandt wrote in a Standard editorial yesterday: “As Premier … he never picked up the somewhat useful knack of making tough decisions or even slightly unpleasant ones. Given a choice between spending money and making someone mad at him, McGuinty reflexively spends money.”

So, rather than making the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) mad at them, the Ontario government announced this week that it will offer a full-day kindergarten program — with elementary teachers ALL day and ECE instructors as support for the former.

NOT what was supposed to happen if Premier McGuinty and Education Minister Kathleen Wynn were going to follow the recommendations of the Charles Pascal early learning report, a report the McGuinty government commissioned.

The Pascal recommendations included that the full-day Kindergarten program be organized as a half-day of regular curriculum (with elementary school teachers) and a half-day of  early childhood exploration and play (with early childhood educators).

However, that is not what Ontario’s children and their parents are going to get.  As Den Tandt suggested, rather than do the right thing, Premier Dalton McGuinty has doubled the cost of the program rather than have ETFO angry with him and his government.  

That is most unfortunate because ECE instructors are not only very qualified for the job, but in fact are better qualified to work with pre-school aged children than licensed elementary teachers. I know that because I have taught in both pre-service and early childhood programs. ‘

And, the reality is that unless prospective teachers have already completed a B.A. in youth and child studies (or will complete if in a concurrent program), they simply don’t have the background or expertise in cognitive development and play that ECE instructors have. In other words, “early childhood educators” are NOT simply day care or child care workers!

In any event, I would recommend visitors to this site: (1) read this Spectator editorial (H/T Mark-Alan), (2) at least the twenty “Recommendations” in the Pascal report, and (3) then remember the McGuinty government’s tendency to spend money rather than make tough decisions at the time of the next Ontario election in October, 2011.

Sunday, November 1, 2009 Update:

Former Ontario Education Minister John Snobelen has an excellent column in today’s Sunday Sun (H/T Catherine). As usual he tells it like it is and here is where I agree with him.

(1) Ontario can’t afford the program now or in the near future.

Put bluntly — Ontario now has a deficit of $25 billion dollars which means we can’t afford full-day kindergarten, no matter how good a program it may be. However, let’s assume that sometime down the road the Ontario government could afford the program — I would be in favour in principle as long as parents have a choice about whether or not their children attend. Remember, school is only compulsory from a child’s sixth birthday.

(2) The young children attending the full-day JK/SK could end up paying for it.

Why on earth would any government put a program in place that is paid for with borrowed money? And when borrowing that money means the very children who would benefit from the program will be the ones paying for it — when they are old enough to pay taxes.

(3) ECE instructors are the best qualified to teach junior kindergarten children.

ETFO did their job well. They scared parents into actually believing that elementary teachers are the only ones truly qualified to teach children aged 3 1/2 to five. That simply is not true. They are not. ECE instructors are better qualified to teach pre-school aged children, at least to age five.

Meaning, that while elementary school teachers are the best qualified to teach from grade one (six year olds) and up, and usually accepted as the best qualified to teach five year olds for half a day in senior kindergarten, they are not as qualified to teach pre-school children as ECE graduates.

The crux of the matter

So, in my opinion, the best scenario would be ECE instructors for the all-day junior kindergarten and a combination of ECE instructors and elementary teachers sharing the full-day senior kindergarten — a half-day each. In addition, I would recommend that ECE teachers be paid more than they currently are — which is around $20,000 a year to at least 3/4 of what elementary teachers make.

In the meantime, where is Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak on this subject? Is he against the full-day program given the deficit? And, will he cancel the program once he is elected Premier in October 2011 — because he will be, of that I have no doubt. Because, parents and all potential voters need to know ahead of time.