Over the summer months a number of important announcements were made that move the introduction of full day kindergarten forward. Perhaps most significantly, the regulations regarding subsidy for the extended day (before and after school) programs have been determined and released.
This blog entry reviews the subsidy arrangements for extended day care. Please see 2010 EL 9 for further detail.
There are several key components:
- The subsidy system for the extended day program will be managed by local Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs). This means that school boards located within the City of Toronto will enter into a contract with the City of Toronto Children's Services Division.
- Children currently receiving subsidy in the licensed child care system will be able to transfer their subsidy to the extended day program. Families with children in both licensed child care and the extended day program can be subsidized in both systems.
- The fee subsidies for the extended day program will be 100% provincially funded unlike much of the existing subsidy system where costs are shared 80/20 between the province and municipalities. (It is interesting to note that this is the same funding model as was set for the Best Start program which is also 100% provincially funded.)
- To maximize the subsidy funding available, school boards are asked to set before school/after school and combined before and after school rates.
- Extended day programs are governed under the Education act so CMSMs are not expected to set additional quality standards or to monitor these programs in the way the licensed home and group child care programs are currently monitored in most municipalities.
- The per diem rate will be established on a school board by school board basis, not on a program by program basis as is the case for the licensed child care sector.
- Existing CMSM waiting list policies will apply to the extended day programs in those situations where the demand for subsidy exceeds the available funding. EL9 explicitly states: "A limited number of subsidies are available for eligible families." (2010 EL9, Page 1)
- Existing income testing requirements will apply to eligibility for the extended day programs.
- It is our understanding that in the City of Toronto, Children's Services Consultants are meeting to review existing kindergarten per diem rates with those programs where kindergarten age children will be attending full day kindergarten. We understand that kindergarten rates will be recalculated to a maximum of the existing preschool rates. This does not apply to many programs this year as one of the criteria in determining where the full day kindergarten program would be offered includes avoiding schools with existing child care programs either on site or close by.
It is important to note that there has been very little take-up of the extended day program by parents across the province. Recent conversations with government officials suggest that fewer than five percent of schools where full day kindergarten is being introduced will offer the extended day component. This is certainly true in the city of Toronto.
It is difficult to determine if the lack of demand for the extended day program is a consequence of delays in the release of the regulations, the projected cost of the before and after school program or the fact that parents who may have required extended day care are happy with the arrangements they already have in place.
In all likelihood, it is a combination of all three. As explored in earlier blog entries, the extended day program is to be offered on a cost recovery basis. The average per diem rate has now been projected at between $25 and$35 dollars which is historically high for before and after school care in the Toronto area.
In September 2010, 35,000 four and five year old children will begin full day kindergarten. This is approximately 15% of the all four and five year olds in the province. It appears that the vast majority of these children will continue to be cared for by a parent or relative, by an informal, unlicensed provider or in the licensed child care sector. It remains to be seen as the program rolls out over the next several years, how much progress will be made towards a seamless, truly integrated early learning and care model.