Monday, April 26, 2010

Bill 242 – Third Reading

Third reading of Bill 242 is now underway. It would appear that it is taking longer than expected to get the legislation through. The debate continues this afternoon and it is anticipated that the legislation will be passed this week.

It is interesting to note that the recommended amendments to the legislation following the public hearings by the opposition parties were not incorporated into the legislation in a substantial way. However:

  • The proposed legislation permits Boards of Education to work in partnership with community based agencies to deliver the extended day component (before and after school, PD days, holidays and summer) for children 6 to 12
  • School Boards will be permitted to enter into partnerships with community agencies to provide programs for 4 and 5 year old children for PD days, school holidays and the summer months but not for the extended day period. (before and after school)

The Minister of Education, Leona Dombrowsky, in introducing the Bill for third reading, made it clear that following passage of the legislation, supporting regulations will be drafted that will allow school boards to enter into partnerships with community agencies currently providing before and after school care on a transitional basis. Until the regulations are drafted, the length of the transition period will not be known.

The commitment to a transitional period before requiring that school boards assume full and exclusive responsibility for the extended day component for 4 and 5 year old children, may provide existing service providers with additional time to prepare for this transition.

It is also interesting to note that at the City of Toronto Child Care Advisory Committee Meeting held on April 21, 2010, a representative of the Toronto District School Board indicated that not all the sites that would be delivering the full day early learning program will offer the extended day program as of September 2010.

School boards will face the same challenge as the licensed child care sector – how to deliver accessible, reasonably priced, high quality programs (the extended day programs are offered on a fee for service basis) where the number of children attending has a direct and significant impact on costs.

It seems reasonable to assume that there will be at least some parents in these schools who will need before- and after-school care. It would appear that there will continue to be a role for the local licensed child care centres in these communities. How long this will continue will depend upon the duration of the transition period discussed above.

The opposition parties proposed that lunch be included as a part of the full day early learning program. However, this proposed amendment was not supported and is not included in the final Bill now before the legislature. This is another factor that may have an influence on the decisions that parents make about enrolling their children in the full day early learning program itself.

For those parents whose children are now in full day licensed child care, preparing lunch on a daily basis will be inconvenient. For some parents, it will not be only inconvenient but will present a financial burden that may create real challenges for their families.

Some parents are expressing concern that their young children will not have enough time to actually eat their lunches or that there will not be sufficient supervision during the lunch period. This is a particular concern for the parents of children who are not even four when they begin school in September.

It is important to recognize that thousands of children bring their lunches to school every day. It is reasonable to assume that schools have systems in place to provide food for those children who forget their lunch.

However, there is no question that for some parents – for financial or other reasons – the need to bring a lunch from home will have an impact on their decision making about enrolling their child in the full day early learning program if they are currently in licensed child care. Some child care programs may find that their parents decide to keep their child in the licensed child care setting

Coming up – The draft full day early learning curriculum has been released. What are the implications for the licensed child care sector?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bill 242 – Next Steps

The public hearings on Bill 242 – An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts in relation to early childhood educators, junior kindergarten and kindergarten, extended day programs and certain other matters – are now over. There appeared to be fairly strong support for the introduction of full day early learning. There was less unanimity on the issue of who should provide the extended day component of the soon to be implemented program. Some speakers were supportive of the proposed model, where boards of education will deliver the entire program. However, many groups urged the Committee to amend the proposed legislation to allow for partnerships between community based not- for -profit agencies and boards of education to deliver before and after school programs as well as programs for PD days, school holidays and over the summer break.

On April 1, 2010, an editorial in the Hamilton Spectator made the case for a collaborative model in those communities where these types of partnerships currently exist and are working well.

On Monday, April 12, 2010, a committee of Parliament will review Bill 242 on a clause by clause basis. At the same time, committee members, who represent each of the three parties in the Ontario Legislature, will consider a number of amendments to the proposed Act. These include an amendment that school boards be allowed to enter into partnerships to deliver the extended day component of full day early learning. In other words, existing community partnerships between the not-for-profit child care sector and schools would continue.

Stayed tuned for further details as they become available.