On January 13th, 2022 the Department of Education and Early Years met with 200 private childcare owner and operators to share options for entering the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care System. We were also introduced to the central organization that would be created by September 2022 that will take on the admin work of directors, allowing Directors the time to mentor staff. No roles, definitions or job descriptions have been defined.
The three options are:
Option A – Become an Approved Service Provider
In this option, the child care centres would remain private but surrender control of operations to a new central organization that is created and controlled by a new, yet-to-be-created, government organization. Funding is tied to the actual cost of operating childcare spaces (cost of care) and utilization (enrolment) of spaces. The government is not providing any details at this time as to what that funding will entail but that they are working on figuring out what the “cost of care” is. We are assuming that cost of operating will not include existing liabilities such as leases, bank loans, and other contractual commitments. The other challenge is that child care centres will not control the enrolment (it will be managed by the government), but their funding will be based on actual enrolment. This could force us to be in a position of not having enough funds to pay operating and debt commitments, without any means to rectify the situation. In addition, our Early Childhood Educators will have wages and benefits determined by a new compensation framework that will be developed and managed by the government. No details about this framework have been revealed, and we would not have control over benefits and compensation in the future. Centres can not expand to support more spaces.
Option B – Transition to Not-for-Profit Child Care
With this option, we would become a not-for-profit service Provider, turning the child care centres over to the provincial government and becoming employees of the central system. We wind up operations as they exist, retire our license, and transfer our program materials, space, and all other relevant assets to a central government organization with out any compensation for the business or assets (materials, equipment).
Option C – Opt-out of the New System
Remain operating and keep our current license to operate. All current funding is terminated by the provincial government, including subsidies for low-income families, the inclusion support grant for children with diverse needs, and general funding which has existed for decades to keep child care fees historically some of the lowest in Canada. We would operate independently of the government model but will still meet all government licensing requirements. Staff wages and benefits would be affected.
Option D – Cease Operations
Cease operations and do not continue to operate. Spaces in our child cares would cease to exist.
The following are some other considerations that will impact our decision.
1. Due to inflation, our child care centres have seen record-setting increases in the cost of food, supplies, maintenance and equipment. The government has capped our rates despite these cost increases. Our educators have seen very limited increases in salary or benefits since the government took control of the hourly wage and have limited any fee increases, and we have not been able to afford to give them.
2. Since the government launched its Pre-Primary Program, there has been an educator staffing crisis. Child care centres can not compete with government salaries and benefits.
3. The current government Pre-Primary Programs are unregulated and do not have to meet the government’s own licensing standards for programming; the ratio of educators to children, equipment, playgrounds, security, annual inspections and quality of care. Now the government is going to launch a Toddler Program in public schools, which will add 9500 more spaces. How are they going to find educators to service these programs? Where will these children go within our already over capacity school system? How do we resolve our current and future needs for educators? Imagine your child having to go to public school at 2 years and 8 months old. This is currently planned for September and if pre-primary has the space, 3-year-old children will be accepted.
4. If child care centre owners do not (or cannot afford to) participate in Option A or B, what will this do to the availability of affordable child care spaces in this province? What is the government’s plan if owners do not surrender their businesses to them?
5. Other provinces, such as Alberta, are treating private and not-for-profit exactly the same, with the same funding to families.
To move forward we are asking the government to be more transparent with their plan. We would like them to collaborate with the private sector and consider clarifying and amending their plan to include:
- The funding model – will this support various centres needs such as leases, loans, groceries, utilities, maintenance, repairs. Is it a scale? Are we able to charge surcharges? Will funding support professional development? Team building? Allegro Socials?
- Wage Scale – will the funding for wages allow us to keep our inclusion coordinator, program supports, our cook and cleaner? Will I be able to compensate employees for years of service or will it all be based on education/classification? Will I be able to give staff bonuses? What will our benefits look like? How will substitutes be paid and will staff lose their vacation and sick time that they currently have.
- Families- will families be able to chose the programs that align with their values and needs or will they be forced to join a centre where there is space?
- Programming- will we still be able to use tadpoles app? Will we lose yoga, music, mad science and field trips? Will we have a budget to purchase materials/art?supplies/equipment to support needs and interests? Back yard upgrades and repairs?
- Quality- will current regulations still be in place? Will ratios be maintained as they are? Will staff have programming time?
- Staffing- will I lose my staff to other centres when in need or if I’m low on enrolment? Will I have say about who is hired to work here? We worked hard to find people who align with our values and create a culture.
- What is the central organization, what is their role in option A? What will they control?
- What will my role as owner/director be? Working with children – does that imply being counted as ratio?
- Admin – currently as a business owner, I have an accountant and lawyer. In the plan it says I can keep admin but will not be funded for these roles- how do I secure funds for admin fees? Will they be doing all of my bookwork?
- If I “retire”- it says I can negotiate with the central organization. I want to know if I can sell my business to another ECE- will they be able to keep the license/grants/subsidies needed to keep Allegro in tact as is? If the central organization takes over, will they buy Allegro at market value?
- What are the “strict terms and agreements” that I would need to follow?
- What is the transitioning grant ( 30% and 60%) and how is it intended to be used.
- With the funding that is going to be applied starting April 1st, how it is going to be determined and will it cover the centres cost of care.
Today, Jan 20th, 2022- we have heard that the department is hearing of our concerns and looking to clarify. We hope that they realize that private childcare centres have filled a gap for so many years; we have worked with them to provide quality care, to evolve to meet standards and are in this business because we care. We believe in community, family-centred , inclusive practices and don’t want this system to be centralized and standardized.