↗ Of $10.6 million in budget increases earmarked for Education and Early Childhood Development, $250,000 (2.4% of the total) is allocated for inclusion of kindergarten in the public school system. Government anticipates this amount will support kindergarten teachers to upgrade credentials and provide for additional professional development for school teams which will now include kindergarten teachers.
↗ Other investments and initiatives this past year have focused on funding to kindergartens to support larger enrollments caused by changes in age of entry, initiatives in early intervention, continued support for Best Start for new parents and babies up to 24 months, and continued funding for community-supported activity through the Partnerships for Children program.
↗ The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is also providing funding to the Children’s Secretariat to make changes to the Child Care Subsidy Policy.
→ Last year, we were pleased to see early childhood development moved to the Department of Education. We echo the Early Childhood Development Association in asking: What structures and infrastructure for early childhood development are and will be within the newly merged Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to specifically support early childhood development?
→ Government continues to incrementally increase investment in Early Childhood Care and Education, but the focus remains on school-aged children. There is still a fundamental need for accessible, affordable, universal, high-quality, developmentally based child care, especially in PEI where we have the highest level of workforce participation in the country for mothers of young children. Wages are very low in PEI (the lowest hourly and yearly wages in Canada), and wages for early childhood educators remain low, too. The only way to bridge the gap between what Island workers can afford to pay and what educators require to make a sustainable living is public investment. Of course, this is not exclusively a provincial responsibility, and the Province can’t be held accountable for the federal government’s failure to support early childhood care and education. Meaningful investment in children in the early years remains our best, most broad-based investment – especially given what we now understand about early childhood development. Providing universal programs for children and parents is the best way to improve the quality of life into the future for our society.
↘ A concern for the near future: When kindergarten moves into the public schools, early childhood centres that previously included kindergarten programs will see about a 30% loss of revenue to support the bare bones of their centres, programs, and staff. Currently, the only way to recoup this loss of revenue would be to ask for more from parents (about $45 a week from parents who pay $150 a week at present). Unless one or another level of government steps in, there will be no other revenue stream to make up the difference.
↘ To benefit more young Island children and their families, investments to help the public school system adjust to the transition of kindergarten into public schools need to be matched by investments to help the early childhood care and education sector adjust to these changes and to the effects of decreased enrollment.
This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2009 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2009 and based on information updated to May 30, 2009.