Support for child care sought

It’s a combination of child care and public education, and Charlene Gray hopes Comox council will support the more than 900 early childhood educators of B.C. for a public system of integrated early care and learning.

Gray, who presented council with the plan at last week’s committee of the whole meeting, explained the idea came about between the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. (ECEBC) and the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C.

The “made-in-B.C” solution to the childcare crisis honours children’s and families’ right to quality early care and leaning, Gray noted, who hopes to garner from council a motion to endorse the plan or letter of support.

“We’re a very fragmented sector. We have private, not-for-profit, big box, all sorts of family childcare, and we really don’t have much regulation in the way that we’re governed. We’re hoping we can integrate into the Ministry of Education (MOE) so that we can be universally accessible as public education is,” she added.

The draft plan began in 2010, and has been presented to communities and businesses across the province.

Gray said while the MOE implements universal, publicly funded full-school-day kindergarten for five-year-olds, fees are too high for parents, wages are too low for staff and quality regulated spaces are too few for child care.

“B.C. has an ongoing child care crisis. Certainly in every community it’s different,” she noted. “Here in the Comox Valley, certainly affordability is an issue.”

Gray explained child care is the second-highest family expense next to mortgages.

If a family has more than one child, then it often exceeds the mortgage payment.

“Early care and learning from birth to five costs more than it does to send your child to university,” she said.

Gray noted the plan integrates the strength of both the public and private sectors.

“In public eduction, it’s universal, you have rights to education. There’s public funding, it’s democratically controlled, it’s supported by the public and there’s the infrastructure to deliver,” she said. “Quality child care has care at the core.

“We have respect for children’s rights, we have play-based holistic programs, and we have intimate relationships with families and we value the child the first and foremost a member of the family and then the community.”

Gray explained that all of the child care centres that are already existing would contract with the MOE to provide the service, and they would then be funded to ensure unique programs could be maintained.

“Parents would still have a right to chose where their child goes, to chose what kind of program their child wants ... everyone has a unique culture in their centre, and we’re not looking to get rid of that.”

Part of the plan would cap fees at $10 day, $7 for part time, and free for families with an income under $40,000.

Currently Gray said fees range anywhere from $20 to $40 a day.

The plan also acknowledges increasing the salary of educators to $25/hour with benefits, as well as allowing all children into programming, including those with special needs.

Gray noted the plan would seek an additional public investment of $1.5 billion annually.


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