Cancelling “key” to Early Learning Program another McGuinty flip-flop

As this ParentCentral article states, the McGuinty government has just flip-flopped on another major promise. Yet, I have to admit that even I was surprised to hear that the Ontario Liberals will be withdrawing the demand that Ontario public school boards run before and after school day care programs — meant to operate in conjunction with the full-day kindergarten, now called the Early Learning Program (ELP).  (H/T Catherine).

Remember, it was only a year ago that the ELP was announced with great fan fare — something I, and other CotM regulars, were sceptical about all along. First, parents already had day care arrangements. Second, existing private and non-profit day care operators were going to be put out of business. Third, it was going to cost billions of additional tax dollars, in the middle of a recession, for more teachers and Early Childhood Educators. And, fourth, and just as important as the other reasons, it became obvious very early on that many communities, particularly rural jurisdictions, simply didn’t want to change the services they already offered.

So, what brought on this policy in the first place? Well, we need look no further than the Charles Pascal report. As the province’s “Early Learning Advisor,” he recommended that schools become community hubs by providing early learning from birth right through to full-day schooling.  For Dr. Pascal’s specific guidelines, simply click on the “early learning summary of evidence” highlighted link.

Now, to be fair, its true that some public boards of education will simply continue to run their before and after school day care programs because they are already operated by for-profit or non-profit day care groups (like the WMCA).  However, the boards won’t be compelled to set up an entirely new infrastructure and the human resources that would go with it.

Now, the big question is:  Going into 2011 and the looming Ontario election, will this flip-flop help the Ontario Liberals? No, it won’t. In fact, my guess is that, given the majority of the comments at ParentCentral, it will actually do just the opposite. People are just plain fed up with the so-called “education” premier and a government that only knows how to tax, spend money and make changes, all the while assuming Ontarians are patient and have bottomless pockets of cash.

Well, given that this turn-around is going to disrupt thousands of lives, it’s probably the last straw that will almost certainly guarantee a change of government in October of 2011 — to the Ontario PC Party.

Oh, and one more thing. Given that Ontario PC Leader, Tim Hudak made it clear, that eliminating the before and after day care component of the ELP was exactly what his government would do, if elected, we can almost guarantee that the PC Party will not release an election platform any time soon. Because, to do so would simply ensure that the Ontario Liberals either criticize its policy ideas or steal them outright.

18 thoughts on “Cancelling “key” to Early Learning Program another McGuinty flip-flop

  1. I find it interesting that the usual suspects are now urging McGuinty to stick to the Pascal plan. McGuinty tossed aside the staffing model proposed by Charles Pascal in favour of one that was far more acceptable to the teacher unions at a far higher cost to the program. Pacal estimated a cost of +/- $1 billion per year and that’s morphed into a $1.5 billion per year plan. I suspect that a large part of what Pascal was advocating has been set aside in order to cover a far higher staff salary cost than he anticipated. The ability to spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on things other than salaries would have provided various other options for the ELP.

    Chickens coming home to roost

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  2. Thanks Joanne. I just tuned in to Jeff Allan and the discussion is running the gamut. The last woman to speak asked why, we as a society, have to have our kids grow up so fast. Good question. Then there is the issue of money. It doesn’t grow on trees and Ontario is already sinking.

    So, at one end university students want cheaper tuition and the other end, many parents want birth to school early learning programs. I mean, why have kids, if the state is supposed to take care of them from birth to university?

    Then, there is the issue of money. We simply can’t afford a program like Quebec’s option. Truthfully, they can’t afford it either and depend on the $8 billion equalization payment from the rest of Canada.

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  3. I’m a little sceptical that a system organized to function ten months per year is really the best way of providing care for young kids. What are parents supposed to do with the youngsters for two months every summer? Even if school boards did figure out some way of offering the service year round I suspect it would be hideously more expensive than what’s already available.

    This is a classic case of big unions, big bureaucracies and big “parent activists” pushing a massively expensive program without much concern over it really is the best means of helping families. I think I heard the head of the Peel board claim that the cost of supplying additional parking spaces for staff would be a legitimate cost of introducing the ELP program at her board. When did the cost of supplying free parking become part of school overhead? I suspect the amount of padding going into the cost of delivering the ELP would be breathtaking.

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  4. John L — I agree. I had even thought of the parking situation. Then, there would be more staff needed in human resources to manage all the ECEs and their benefits. Teachers were always seem as “in loco parentis” — in place of parents when the parents are not around. However, schools were not meant to replace parents or their homes.

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  5. The idea that people don’t want this program is simply ludicrous. Where there are not the numbers, the program will not be offered, therefore by definition, where it is offered it was wanted.

    McGuinty is making an error to involve the outside providers in the in-school component. The principal of the school must be fully in charge of the program and it must be highly coordinated to provide a seamless day. We will get there eventually and we will eventually extend downwards to 3 year olds.

    Of course I want it all to be free both the childcare and kindergarten parts.

    There are those who say “you cn’t do this, you are hurting both profit and some non-profit organizations.”

    So what, madicare hurts health insurace companies, public housing depresses rents for private bildings, TTC keeps car prices down, libraries hold the price of books down, public auto insurance hurts private companies.
    Nobody guaranteed them business, it is called risk. I call it progress.

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  6. Doug — I know of several young mothers who don’t want this program. Funny, but parents have managed for decades. Yet, you think the ELP is going to change the world. Like improve the EQAO scores in a few years? Naw, its just more progressive ideology that is all about big government and union influence.

    However, that said, you really should get out of Toronto and Vancouver more. Rural Ontario would seem very refreshing to you — where people help people just because they are neighbourly. And, heaven forbid, yes, some parents actually would prefer to bring up their children themselves.

    Oh, and regarding putting day cares out of business? I sure wouldn’t call that progress. I mean, why re-invent something that is already working. ECE graduates are far better qualified to teach pre-school and JK and SK children.

    Anyway, your rationale is just so predictable. So, save your fingers. I am not going to approve any more comments where you call people who disagree with you ludicrous.

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  7. There are all sorts of potential reasons why the program may or may not be offered at a particular board or school.

    As to claiming to know what “people”, or “teachers” or “parents” or “kids” want I venture there are very few people who can speak for such a diverse group and be credible. We’ve dealt with sweeping generalizations in the past.

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  8. The day to day operation with ELP has little to do with unions. People either like the program or don’t like it. There are few people if any who would say that they dislike the program because of the role of unions.

    In each community, whether rural or urban, there will be parents who want it and those who don’t want it. Maybe someone can direct us to media examples of schools and communities that have not embraced the program? Approval or disapproval of ELP is often based on whose parental voice is the loudest.

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  9. It simply doesn’t matter whether some mothers, some schools and some boards want it or not. Nobody in Ontario is required to put their kid in school or childcare until they are 6. Where there is no demand there will be no program. I suspect that some mother want to keep their child at home but suspect that the kids that DO enter the ELP will be more advanced than their child so they don’t only not want the program for themselves, they don’t want it for anyone else either.

    Is suspect that in the most resistant schools or boards in Ontario, the program will be full in 2-3 years.

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  10. That’s the precise problem Doug. Some parents want to put their children in the half-day program. However, its either all day or nothing. That is not a choice, particularly when they were promised by McGuinty himself that there would be such choice. Moreover, you should not make a sweeping generalization that “where there is no demand, there will be no program.” There are many other complications you never speak about, such as the huge expense boards have been faced with to increase the size of parking lots — often where there is no space to increase.

    The program will not be full in 2-3 years because McGuinty is going to be gone in October 2011 and the Hudak government will bring back choice. And, you can take that to the bank as Jack at JNW always says.

    Going out now. Back later in the day.

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  11. Some communities apparently don’t want the program, but would they be willing to allow other communities to have the program? If some schools opted out of the program, then it would save taxpayers some money. But some people would also call it unfair. Unfortunately, many school boards are so large in terms of diversity, geography and/or population that catering to the needs of small communities is a challenge. There was a time when Junior Kindergarten was not available to every community or in every school board and people survived. By amalgamating school boards, programs and policies were introduced that did not have the support of all communities within a board. Between the funding formula, amalgamated school board and government’s politicalization of education with EQAO and other data, all new programs created by any Ontario government will probably have to be implemented everywhere. ELP may be but one of many such future programs.

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  12. Matt — There were several columns on the weekend on this topic. And, the consensus is that it was not well thought out and that there is more to the problems than simply boards saying they don’t want to have the before and after program. The main point among all of us is that it was meant to be a gift to the teachers’ unions and by changing things to allow private or non-profit groups to offer the child care, there will be no more union members afterall.

    I didn’t have time to get links, but if you are interested, take a look in the Sunday Sun Comment section for columns by Moira MacDonald and John Snobelen. There was also something in the National Post on the weekend as well.

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  13. John L. lays it out nicely over at SFT “The whole thing is pretty outrageous, not so much because the concept itself is totally unreasonable but because it become s pretty clear that all sorts of forces entirely unrelated to making children the top priority shaped it. Consider: -There’s no plan to accomodate kids over the summer in most schools. -The staffing model IS NOT the one recommended Pascal and adds enormously to the cost -The staffing model will significantly reduce the number of qualified adults. (Imagine if the money spent hiring teachers was used to staff with ECEs over the summer break. It might be possible to operate 12 months per year, at least as a daycare in the summer -There was no consideration given to the welfare of those operating existing daycares; apparently they’re a non-issue. -There was no effort made to determine an endstate cost for the plan; thus far it has moved f from $1 billion per year to $1.5 and that’s not firm. -There’s no provision for parents who don’t want to participate in the plan; they’ll receive no options. This was driven almost entirely by “advocates” who accept one, and only one, version of how things have to be done and families who don’t go along are roadkill. “

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  14. Another disconnect that is amplified by the bones of the ELP and the Before and After School program is this whole notion of the school as “hub” or “centre” flavour of the day. For small and rural communities where schools have always been the centre of their community this is nothing new at all. Smaller communities historically and of their own accord via local decision-making have done a great job of utilizing their schools for other things. They’ve also been good at creating partnerships with private and municipal providers. The ELP as adopted by this gov’t created problems between those good partnerships that didn’t exist before, essentially pitting communities against one another in competing for children that we simply do not have. A sad reality in small and rural communities is that fewer and fewer taxpayers and voters have kids in school. I was invited to attend a school board communications strategy session last spring where we were stunned to learn that less than 20% of those living in our board districts have kids in school, and even fewer move on to post-secondary schools. The board was very clear in telling us that they needed a communications strategy that was going to try to get those who don’t have kids in school to be part of the discussion and planning for the future. It’s a tall order to convince a community where the majority of residents are over 65 to make an ELP a priority when we still can’t get doctors and thanks to LINS things have gotten worse, not better. So much so that even our seniors are pulling up roots and moving closer to border towns & cities just in case they have to go to the USA for medical attention that they can’t get here. We’ve heard McGuinty say more than a few times that there is no more money. That means he has to take it from somewhere else – where should that be and who will decide. It’s sure not going to be the unions – it’s going to be the people who pay taxes and who get value for their money. Early learning doesn’t need to happen in a classroom by a certified teacher. That to me is the crux-of-the-matter.

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  15. It simply doesn’t matter whether some mothers, some schools and some boards want it or not. Nobody in Ontario is required to put their kid in school or childcare until they are 6. Where there is no demand there will be no program. I suspect that some mother want to keep their child at home but suspect that the kids that DO enter the ELP will be more advanced than their child so they don’t only not want the program for themselves, they don’t want it for anyone else either. Is suspect that in the most resistant schools or boards in Ontario, the program will be full in 2-3 years.

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  16. John L. lays it out nicely over at SFT “The whole thing is pretty outrageous, not so much because the concept itself is totally unreasonable but because it become s pretty clear that all sorts of forces entirely unrelated to making children the top priority shaped it. Consider: -There’s no plan to accomodate kids over the summer in most schools. -The staffing model IS NOT the one recommended Pascal and adds enormously to the cost -The staffing model will significantly reduce the number of qualified adults. (Imagine if the money spent hiring teachers was used to staff with ECEs over the summer break. It might be possible to operate 12 months per year, at least as a daycare in the summer -There was no consideration given to the welfare of those operating existing daycares; apparently they’re a non-issue. -There was no effort made to determine an endstate cost for the plan; thus far it has moved f from $1 billion per year to $1.5 and that’s not firm. -There’s no provision for parents who don’t want to participate in the plan; they’ll receive no options. This was driven almost entirely by “advocates” who accept one, and only one, version of how things have to be done and families who don’t go along are roadkill. “

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