With its kindergarten for 4-year-olds program expanding, the Lester B. Pearson School Board says it’s more important than ever for the Quebec government to start footing the bill for the increasingly popular program.
"Almost everyone in North America has 4-year-old kindergarten, except us," said Marcus Tabachnick, chairman of the Pearson board. "It’s in more than 40 states in the U.S. It’s in Ontario and Alberta. Quebec has always rightly been proud of its social programs, but it’s lagging behind on this."
The board plans to expand its popular program to yet another school this year, bringing the total to six elementary schools. It already has thriving programs at Thorndale in Pierrefonds, Springdale in Dollard des Ormeaux, Greendale in Pierrefonds and Verdun elementary (although students can now register for it at Orchard in LaSalle as well).
Off-island, since Mount Pleasant will be full next year, there’s still been no decision if the program will be moved to Forest Hill Junior or go into the new school being built in St. Lazare.
And a new program is planned for St. Edmund’s in Beaconsfield, although it is contingent on registering enough students, which is a minimum of 15.
Pearson officials have long argued that the program creates much better prepared 5-year-olds, which means students in the long-run who have fewer problems and will be more likely to stay in school.
"Daycare is not preparing kids for school, but this can," said Tabachnick. "We want Quebec to understand the importance of this. It’s coming out of our operating funds, but in Ontario the government has invested $1 billion in providing full-day kindergarten for 4-year-olds because the research is clear."
Quebec only funds kindergarten for 4-year-olds in economically-deprived areas.
Tabachnick said it makes no sense that Quebec is becoming one of the last places on the continent to embrace the idea.
"We expect Quebec to lead the way in family issues," said Tabachnick. "So many kids show up for kindergarten unprepared. That’s why this is so important."