Would Hudak’s Ont PC’s provide real choice re kindergarten?

Interesting that in ParentCentral.ca magazine,  the Ontario McGuinty Liberals are now trying to convince parents that they actually do have a “choice” regarding participation in the full-day kindergarten. Clearly that is not the case at all. In fact, their options are only that their young children either attend or not attend — since kindergarten is not compulsory in Ontario. Some choice that is. In fact, that is no choice at all. Parents either do it the McGuinty government’s way or not at all.

Instead, choice should have been half-day versus full-day kindergarten — which was what Premier Dalton McGuinty originally promised. Meaning, another broken promise.  Well, if the mayoralty race in Toronto is any indication, Ontarians are not going to simply say “okay sir, anything you say sir.” Meaning, the Ontario Liberals are going to go down to defeat in the provincial election of October 2011 in a big way — a way that they, in their current mode of arrogance and entitlement, simply seem to have no idea how bad it is going to be.  

I have written about the full-day kindergarten program several times. See my archive here. My point is, that while I am not opposed to such a program in principle, I am when you double the cost by agreeing that elementary teachers are needed to teach the full day with Early Childhood Educators in a secondary assisting role, no matter how they want to spin it. And, all that cost at a time when Ontario has a deficit of $19 billion!

First, you don’t need elementary teachers in the afternoons when kids are napping or involved in play activities. Second, ECEs are the better qualified to teach 3 and 4-year-olds. Third, you do not need to adhere to the elementary teachers union view that 3 and 4-years-olds need a connection to the elementary school curricula and practices that only qualified teachers can provide. Nonsense. When the children get to Grade one, that is soon enough to find out all about the formal curricula. Remember, in the ParentCentral.ca column, Ontario Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky reiterated that kindergarten and school attendance is not compulsory until age six. So….. 

I am also opposed that the full-time kindergarten program is scheduled to be in every single Ontario elementary school by 2015. We had not-for-profit and for-profit day care throughout Ontario before any of this full-day JK/SK started and things were working quite well. Then, along came the McGuinty Liberals, who wanted to change things, even when we obviously can’t afford it right now.

The crux of the matter is, in my opinion, that if the McGuinty Liberals remain in power in Ontario past October 2011, essentially all half-day kindergarten programs will die by 2015. Meaning, there will be no significant choice for parents apart from the kids are in or out until Grade One.  

Time to fight back Ontario! As such, I would recommend the Hudak PC’s make the JK and SK programs about choice — half day mornings with a teacher or full-day with ECE specialists in charge, not only before and after school, but in the afternoons as well. 

I know, I know, ETFO officials will be outraged, although that outrage might be tempered somewhat if they get to represent ECE staff (a decision I actually agree with by the way). But, remember, that education peace in Ontario during these past seven years has been bought by taxpayers dollars. What that has meant is giving the teachers’ unions just about everything they have asked for — apart from eliminating the EQAO and standardized testing, which the McGuinty Liberals will no doubt do if given another majority government.

So, Mr. Hudak, in addition to providing real choice re the kindergarten program by offering a half-day morning program, as well as the full-day, I would recommend your party guarantee that EQAO will not only continue but, in fact, will expand.

Remember, while both those issues are winners, it is the guarantee that standardized testing will continue that is the big one, because it is the only remaining mechanism parents have to know how their children and their child’s school is performing in relation to all other Ontario schools.

10 thoughts on “Would Hudak’s Ont PC’s provide real choice re kindergarten?

  1. Good points all Sandy. What will happen is just as half-day SK became universally available then the norm for all children, so went JK, and so will this, ultimately undermining the very benefits it was supposed to give to high-needs schools.

    What this will also mean is that the costs of the program will become exponentially more expensive as the child/ECE/teacher ratios will be used by the unions as the next bargaining chip. Next they will be pushing for higher salaries for ECEs, who will eventually be required to be get more certification, which will further push up their costs, etc. etc. It’s how the mad spiral starts.

    Considering the general population is aging, that school-aged populations are dropping, and that fewer taxpayers have fewer kids in schools, the outlook for more money for health care and seniors starts to look bleak.

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  2. My daughter just began Kindergarten here in BC. She has the last part time Kindergarten offered.
    Kindergarten is just subsidized daycare.
    As far as I can understand the curriculum has not changed from the part time kindergarten.
    The rumblings are that junior kindergarten full time is next. Consider that in BC kindergarten is not actually mandatory so think of it as two years of daycare slipped under the door.

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  3. Jay — Actually if Kindergarten is done right, there is a curriculum. When I was a teacher educator I used to observe practice teachers in their practicum. The children learn the alphabet, basic counting and listening and following stories. Plus they get involved in a number of what is referred to as discovery or language experiences which requires problem solving and coming to conclusions. The balance of the time is a nap and pretty much what kids do in daycare.

    But, that said, I also taught undergraduate curriculum courses and had many ECE graduates in my classes. They are top notch professionals who don’t get paid enough for what they do. They work with our futures, our children, yet they are usually at the bottom of the pay scale.

    So, if the daycare has qualifed ECE they are worth every bit as much as a formal JK/SK program.

    Now, I am sure some qualified teachers are going to complain but that is simply the reality. The expertise of being a teacher is really only needed in Grade One because that is when learning to read and printing starts in earnest.

    I suspect, however, that this battle over qualified teachers versus ECE is only starting. As Doretta says, its just a matter of time when ECE requirements will be upped to match teachers. The thing is, though, that ECE is a two or three year community college program, whereas a B.Ed is a bachelor’s degree, either four year B.A./B.Ed concurrent program or a three year B.A. plus a fourth year for the B.Ed. I just don’t think that is fair because ECE can only teach pre-school children, where teachers can teach several grades, depending on their specialization.

    So, while I think ECE professionals should be paid much more than they are, I know that the public purse cannot be expanded to the point where they are paid the same as elementary school teachers because the learning and curricula demands on the latter are much more.

    Anyway, your point is well taken.

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  4. How many elections do the Tories have to blow over wrongheaded education policy before they clue in to the fact that what PC Party members want for eduction and what Ontario citizens want for education are totally opposite.

    Frank Miller – catholic extension big mistake, ended Tory dynasty

    John Tory – extent private religious funding, big mistake, blew election.

    Tim Hudak – opposed ELP, big mistake, lost election before it even started.

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  5. Nice try Doug. Dalton McGuinty is going to lose the next election, big time, not because of what Hudak says they will do, but because of what McGuinty and company has done or not done. Moreover, you are very wrong about the ELP. The PC’s do not oppose it in principle. They only oppose the real lack of choice and how much it is going to cost to implement it across the board in every Ontario school by 2015. What needs to happen is to have it in selected downtown schools, in communities that want it. In my community, for example, there are no schools with the ELP. Rather, the regional daycare manages off times quite nicely as they have done for a couple of decades.

    Anyway, we shall see what the Ontario voters decide. Interesting that you have a crystal ball a year out.

    You know, the next Ontario election will not just be about education. But, when it is, you are going to hear from the disaffected parents that I hear from — and surprise, surprise, there are thousands out there. In other words, the left’s tendency, as it is with you, to shut down debate is proving to be counter productive.

    In other words, when you constantly refer to all Conservatives as extremists who want to destroy the public education system as we know it, on your blog, it is you who has lost credibility — at least with the general voter.

    In the end, it was Bill Davis who extended Catholic education, just days before he finished, not Miller. In fact, Miller had only two months before the NDP/Peterson Liberals took over his duly elected government with their “accord.”

    And, I disagree about John Tory. Had he wanted to extend public funding to all private institutions, by providing vouchers or tax credits — as in “alternative choices”, I believe he would have won. It was only the anti-Islamic issue that killed the idea. But, whatever the cause or the spin that killed it, that policy will not likely ever come up again. Hudak will not touch it that is for sure.

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  6. When Harris decided to take control of education funding and make everything equal, he allowed the future to exist where programs like ELP must be funded everywhere. His government took away the rights of local communities to control their public education funding and then tried to give parents more choice through private school vouchers and tax credits (which benefitted the large, wealth schools in urban centres and their upper class families, not the ones who needed it the most).

    Perhaps Hudak could restore more control of funding and taxation of education. Larger centres would get to keep more of their money and fund things like ELP while smaller communities could use their decreased funding to pursue local initatives.

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  7. Matt — The MPP I worked for was on the “who does what committee” and, as a result, I took notes in far too many Harris gov’t era internal meetings. The problem, as I remember it, was that Catholic school boards were required to provide the exact same programs as the secular public but survived on 60 cents for every dollar the secular public received — a 40% difference!

    The trustees meanwhile were spending money on their own honorariums and perks that should have been spent on teachers and students and infrastructure. Moreover, they were totally out of control raising taxes constantly because they were too cozy with both the unions and the administrators. I mean, in small communities, trustees were related or married to union officials.

    I also know for a fact that taking away the ability to tax was never part of the Common Sense Revolution. I still have a copy and looked it up a few minutes ago. All it said is “they would do government differently,” but it didn’t specify how. Meaning, that school board and city amalgamation was not in the CSR either. It was done because once you take away the ability to tax or block grants, those decisions affect all the other levels. Personally, I think Harris regrets doing it. I imagine had he known what a can of worms it would open, he would have left well alone. Yet, oddly, in seven years, the McGuinty has changed nothing.

    My point? The funding formula and the taxation issues were completely separate. When the Funding Formula was instituted and Catholic funding and the secular public funding became equal, the latter complained of a huge cut (20%), while never mentioning where that cut went. It became the elephant in the room. In other words, the 40% difference was split. The secular public lost 20% and the Catholic gained 20%.

    It still beats me how the Catholic boards could do what they did, build new schools and compete on so many fewer dollars. Same today, drive by Catholic schools and they are well care for, whereas the paint is peeling and yards need tending at the public schools. (And no I’m not Catholic)

    Anyway, giving Toronto back their “negative grant” status sure won’t help Northern Ontario or other small communities with a small industrial tax base. Thats how they got those swimming pools (and where I learned to swim I have to admit ;)) and were able to offer all those after school heritage programs. Put succinctly, until the change to the funding formula, the City of Toronto gave not one cent towards education anywhere else. Not one cent.

    Now, in a federation, is that fair? Not in my books. And, here I am a conservative saying that equality does not equal letting one board have all their money at the expense of the smaller communities. So, smaller communities would have to, out of necessity, have fundraisers to be able to have even a small share of what the richer communities would have.

    Well, that sure isn’t a vote winner! However, just my opinion. Maybe others can weigh in as well.

    Endnote: I don’t honestly think there is anything the Hudak PC’s can offer teachers these days except more power and more money and that’s not going to happen. Nor, in my book, should it. Had the trustees not abused the taxpayers with years of raising taxes and spending on themselves, we would not be talking about this today. And, therein is the pity. The bogeyman was not Mike Harris — rather the out of control school board trustees!

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  8. But at least Sandy, the trustees were voted by locals and local issues actually mattered. If there were abuses by local trustees, then the voters could have dealt with it directly. The voters have less direct power now that education is run centrally out of Queen’s Park. It also shows how much municipal politics don’t matter to people despite it’s significant importance in our daily lives. Trustee or MPP abuses, which one would people care more about?

    In looking at the Toronto pools, if I remember, it was a local decision for the school board to fund the pools and put them in schools. The city then did not build pools in community centres. A local decision that can’t happen anymore.

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  9. Matt — Most of the Toronto pools were put in intermediate and high schools too long ago to know how they were paid for. Since I actually attended the old Dewson Street School (which I believe was torn down some time ago), in Grade four or five we were walked over to an intermediate school from there for swimming lessons. I can’t remember its name but it was near Ossington and Tech was in the name. Hmm. I do know, however, it was in the 1950’s because I can remember music being piped into the pool and it included a very young Elvis (Blue Suede Shoes), as well as Doris Day and Patty Page’s “How much is that dog in the window?” And, parents and grandparents complain about today’s music. LOL

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