2018 Ontario Budget: Recognition for Early Childhood Educators and Free Child Care for Children 2.5 – 4 Years Old.
Today’s budget would lead Ontario to a system of high quality, affordable early years and child care by addressing the key issues of affordability for families and decent work and professional pay for early childhood educators. The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) is pleased to see a commitment that would transform the way that early years and child care is delivered in the province.
The plan to make child care free and universal for all children 2.5 – 4 years and at an affordable fee for infants and toddlers will provide much-needed financial relief for families. The commitment to develop a comprehensive workforce strategy and wage scale for all registered early childhood educators (RECEs) and child care staff by 2020 is recognition of the valuable and important role that RECEs play in the lives of young children. RECEs have specialized knowledge of child development, they belong to the College of Early Childhood Educators, and they plan and implement pedagogy following How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years (2014) – it is undoubtedly time for all RECEs to have professional pay, decent work and respect and recognition as valued professionals.
This policy builds on the extensive consultation with parents, advocates, child care providers, early childhood educators and women’s groups and the 2017 commitment to provide universally accessible, affordable child care for all children and families who need it. Finance Minister Sousa confirmed that an allocation of an additional $2.2 billion over 3 years includes funds to cover the full operating costs of child care services for children 2.5 – 4 years, funds to lower fees for infants and toddlers, funds for expansion of services and funds to establish a wage scale.
To assist First Nations communities $40 million has been designated over 3 years in new operating funding for new and existing child care programs on-reserve. An additional investment of $290 million over six years in new child care capital infrastructure starting in 2019-20 will create 4, 500 new child care spaces, doubling the current child care capacity on reserve.
The Innovation Fund of $30 million over three years is intended to assist child care programs and community groups in meeting the multifaceted challenges of providing flexible child care to meet the needs of families working non-regular hours and to support development and sustainability in the non-profit child care sector.
While this Budget outlines the first steps towards universally accessible and affordable child care for all it is important to note that the AECEO is committed to working with our ECE members, government, sector parents and parents to ensure responsible and effective implementation. There are, of course, still many details that need to be negotiated, such as expansion in the non-profit and public sector only. We have joined with many sector stakeholders in calling for a moratorium on the licensing of new for-profit child care operations because we believe that every dollar of public funds must go to our children and not into corporate pockets.
The wage scale that will be phased in over two years will include supervisors, early childhood educators, and non-ECE staff working in licensed child care centres, licensed home child care agencies, and Early ON child and family centres.
Projected funding to implement the wage scale would ramp up to $500 million once it is fully implemented to bring compensation for RECEs and staff in the early years and child care sector in line with RECEs working in full-day kindergarten. In the interim the Wage Enhancement / Home Child Care Enhancement grant will be maintained. It is important to note that AECEO is also calling for improvements to compensation for RECEs working in full-day kindergarten for Ontario school boards. It is critical to address further details of the wage scale and the AECEO is committed to working collaboratively with government, ECEs and sector partners and school boards to ensure that implementation of the wage scale contributes positively to the recruitment and retention of all RECEs - no matter where they work.
In November 2017 over 4,000 RECEs and early years staff responded to the AECEO’s consultation survey that helped to inform the recommendations that we made to government on behalf of all RECEs in Ontario. Our recommendations included:
- The province of Ontario should immediately develop a new base funding approach to early years and child care programs in Ontario to ensure quality, affordability and access.
- The province should immediately establish a provincial wage scale with a $25/hr minimum for RECEs to inform base funding, while recognizing the level of education and years of experience for RECEs and staff in accordance with pay equity principles. In the interim, maintain and immediately extend the Wage Enhancement Grant/Home Child Care Enhancement grant to establish a minimum wage of $25/hr for all RECEs.
- Develop and implement an Early Childhood Workforce Learning Framework which will enable such quality-related staff supports as paid time for professional learning and expanded opportunities for acquiring and upgrading qualifications.
- Create practitioner roles and identify educational requirements alongside a career ladder that will strengthen program quality while formally recognizing the value of credentials and experience. This initiative will support the recruitment and retention of registered early childhood educators and a greater incentive to make ECEC a life-long career.
- Change the positions of full-time Designated Early Childhood Educators working in the publicly-funded school systems to year-round and salaried status with compensation commensurate with other full time educators in the public education systems.
- Commission an external review of the Full-Day Kindergarten educator team and classroom conditions to inform future planning and development.