TORONTO /CNW Telbec/ – Parents and early childhood educators are being asked to keep the Pascal vision alive by insisting the Ontario government adopt the full plan for education and child care reform presented by its early learning advisor.
“Charles Pascal’s report was the best thing to hit education in two decades,” Annie Kidder of the parent organization, People for Education told a Queen’s Park press conference today. “But the Ontario government’s fragmented approach to implementation is jeopardizing its own strategy,” she said.
“Choosing to put in place only part of one recommendation in the report – full day learning for four and five year olds, operating on school days only – doesn’t meet the child care needs of families and leaves child care operators to ponder their continued viability,” she said.
Some of the problems lie with Bill 242 which amends the Education Act allowing school boards to operate full day learning and care programs.
“The failure to require school boards to operate the program year round and the government’s silence on how the needs of children under 3 years old and those 6-12 will be met is creating anxiety for parents and unanswered questions for school boards, municipalities and child care operators,” said Zeenat Janmohamed, a faculty member in Department of Early Childhood and Community Services at George Brown College.
In response some school boards have lobbied to have childcare agencies continue to operate before and after school activities. Advocates say this would effectively dismantle Pascal’s approach for a single, seamless, continuum of programming for children from birth to age 12.
“The Pascal report attacked the fragmentation that has two parallel programs serving the same children, while other children receive no service at all. Allowing school boards to contract out a portion of the program entrenches the fragmentation,” Janmohamed said. “Children will continue to bounce between different operators and early childhood educators will be divided between those who have good full time jobs working in schools and those who work part time in daycare topping and tailing the school day.”
Janmohamed urged educators and parents to stay the course and demand the comprehensive early learning system developed by the Premier’s early advisor. “Maintaining the $63-million in the recent Budget is good start to stabilizing child care. The government now needs to take the next steps and help child care programs refocus on younger children and support school boards to expand their approach to families. There is no shortage of children who need early learning and care but we need to make smart decisions about who does what and how to best maximize our investments in children,” she said.