In our response to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs' Pre Budget consultation process, the AECEO has made several recommendations to support the concept of transforming the current patchwork system of early years and child care services that parents and families currently struggle to navigate.
Every day, ECEs make the difficult decision to leave the sector and the work that they love due to low wages and challenging working conditions that hinder their ability to fulfill their professional roles in early years and child care programs. An alarming concern as the anticipated transformation of early years and child care in Ontario rests on the ability of the early childhood (EC) workforce to take up 20,000 new jobs. In order to recruit and retain well-trained, well-educated and passionate ECEs it is imperative that the Government of Ontario address the root of the problem:
The AECEO recommended that the Ontario Government develop and invest in a comprehensive workforce strategy for the ECE profession that includes
- A provincially established, annually indexed, regional wage scale along with annually indexed base funding for child care and other family resource and support programs in order to equitably raise the salaries, working conditions and morale of all ECEs and early years staff and to strengthen recruitment and retention. A standardized wage rate in the early years and child care sector will ensure staff with equivalent education and work responsibilities are paid a similar rate of pay no matter where they work. These initiatives would further contribute to higher and more consistent quality across programs. The Government of Manitoba announced a wage scale program on January 12, 2016.
- We support the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care’s call for at least $500 million in capital funding for Year 1 of the child care expansion to begin to make a real difference in availability of spaces; provide $300 million in new operating funding to keep pace with expansion of spaces, to support child care services directly and kick start a process of system transformation. The province should contribute an additional $75 million to address immediate crises faced by existing programs;
- The province should commit to moving from the current broken fee subsidy system to an affordable sliding fee scale, and begin work immediately to design an affordable fee model that works for all Ontario families;
- A provincial mandate and supporting funding arrangement to make the Designated ECE position in full-day kindergarten a full-time, full-year position comparable to that of elementary school teachers;
- Support for essential ongoing education and professional learning for early childhood educators and early years staff at all levels, no matter where they work;
- Appropriate infrastructure support, including funding to facilities, programming, curriculum development, and early childhood education and care organizations.