Children's and Parent's Right to Childcare is to Be Supported in British Columbia with the Public School System Now Being Charged with the Responsibility of Creating and Providing Childcare at Low Cost to Families. A new plan will extend the universality, public funding and democratic governance of the public school system to services for children under the age of five on a voluntary basis.
More than 30 years ago, the women’s movement put childcare on the public agenda. While there have been important successes along the way, it can get depressing to see so little political progress. Parent fees are too high, staff wages are too low, there are nowhere near enough spaces and public funding is almost non-existent. But the good news is that there’s a solution.
The Coalition of Child Care Advocates of British Columbia and the Early Childhood Educators of BC have a plan to solve BC’s childcare crisis that’s been striking a chord: the 2011 Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning. Who’s on board so far? Support has come from the City of Vancouver and a dozen other municipalities; the Vancouver, Burnaby, Campbell River, Cowichan Valley, Kootenay Columbia, and Gulf Islands school boards; the Surrey Board of Trade; the Vancouver and District Labour Council, BCGEU, CUPE BC, and BC Teachers’ Federation; a growing list of academics and businesses; and too many parents to count.
What’s got everyone so excited? For starters, the promise of $C10-a-day childcare. Under the plan, new public dollars will go to childcare programmes to cap parent fees at $C10 per day for full-time care and $C7 per day for part-time care and make it free for families who make less than $C40,000 a year. Families could save up to $C10,000 a year and many could move out of poverty. Funding would also increase childcare workers’ wages to an average of $C25 an hour plus benefits. With increased educational opportunities, early childhood educators would finally earn the income and respect they deserve.
But, the plan is about more than money. It’s about rights. By signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination against Women, Canada and British Columbia promised to honour children’s and women’s right to childcare. The plan calls on BC to finally enshrine this right in a new BC Early Care and Learning Act.
The plan moves childcare from the current patchwork to a democratically governed public system. Following international trends, it integrates childcare into our education system in a way that builds on the strengths of both our public school system and quality, community-based childcare. The plan extends the universality, public funding and democratic governance of the public school system to services for children under the age of five on a voluntary basis. And it strengthens play-based, experiential, nurturing programmes that are staffed by qualified early childhood educators.
The plan welcomes existing providers into the new system and makes school boards responsible for creating new services that their communities need. It also ensures they have the funds to get the job done.
The plan is not about standardized curriculum or academic achievement for young children. Children will still start school at age five but their early care and learning programmes will be strong and equal partners with the K-12 system. Childcare will be an expected and accepted part of neighbourhoods, and, with time, may well be a positive influence on all levels of the education system.
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