Prior to the 1960’s it was common for families to be supported by the pay cheque of just one spouse. Due to the rapid increase in the size of government, taxes have increased much faster than the cost of living as a percentage of income in Canada, according to the Fraser Institute. Today young parents are faced with the dilemma of two working spouses and day care for their children.
Most school districts in Ontario offer optional half-day or full-day, alternate day Junior and Senior Kindergarten, and children are eligible to start in the year they turn 4. Kindergarten is a two year program and parents are obliged to provide care before and after school. Many schools have such care on site run by private groups at reasonable prices. In November 2007, Premier McGuinty appointed Dr. Charles Pascal as special advisor on early learning to recommend the best way to implement full day Kindergarten in Ontario. Pascal’s report was published in June 2009 and needless to say it received glowing praise from teachers, education related unions and young cash strapped parents.
Pascal’s report called for Kindergarten classes of 26 students supervised by a teacher and an early childhood educator (ECE). Daycare would also be offered and supervised by ECE people at a reasonable fee at the same location from 7 am to 6 pm outside of the regular school day. This day care could be extended to 6 to 12 year olds if there is sufficient demand. The recession has delayed full implementation, but it will be phased in starting in Sept. 2010 and completed by Sept. 2015 with initial costs of $500 million in the first two years and likely beyond the recently revised estimate of $1.5 billion.
Superficially it may appear that this program identifies children’s problems earlier so they can be dealt with earlier, but the evidence for that is scant. Even if there was good evidence, is it really cost effective or desirable? Why not just remove the children at birth as one wag suggested? This way parents will have no influence in bringing up their children.
What’s wrong with Ontario’s full day Kindergarten plan?
- It increases the government’s monopoly on education, while increasing the size of the public sector at the expense of private sector day and child care, and reduces choice.
- It replaces market incentivized child care workers with less accountable, less competitive, unionized teachers and ECE employees at greater cost.
- It further increases the dependence of citizens on government sponsored programs.
- It creates a new government-union partnership that invites province-wide daycare strikes in the future when the partners disagree.
As long as educators have no incentive to make substantive improvements, most will continue to behave as before and Ontario schools will strive to reach mediocrity at a high price.
This article first appeared in the Libertarian Bulletin (Winter 2009) a publication of the Ontario Libertarian Party.