Ontario’s education minister announced Wednesday the government is backing down from controversial proposed changes to the province’s daycare system that proved hugely unpopular among educators and parents.
“We have heard the concerns raised, and I want to be clear that the regulations as posted will not be implemented,” Liz Sandals said during Question Period.
She later added, “the period for comment closed on April the 1st so we’ve looked at the comments with respect to the age groupings and it’s clear there’s a number of concerns and there’s more work to do.”
The proposed regulations included adjusting age groupings in daycares, group sizes and staff-child ratios. It would have restricted infant rooms to babies up to one year old, rather than 18 months. Twelve-month-olds would enter toddler rooms and then move to preschool rooms at 24 months.
“We’re asking ECE’s to compromise their code of ethics and their standard of practice, because as we know, a 12-month-old baby is not a toddler,” said registered early childhood educator Viktoria Bitto.
“It’s not developmentally appropriate to put them in the same room together.”
Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care said that “Centres would be forced to make changes to space, and some rooms might close. It would basically put centres into more of a financial bind.”
And parents would have paid for the brunt of it.
Toronto city councillor Janet Davis crunched the numbers. “A 20 to 40 per cent rise in fees for parents for child care that is already well beyond the reach for many families, and we will actually lose 2,000 spaces in the system,” she said.
Critics say this is the third time since 2010 that the provincial government has attempted to put these proposed changes through, and it is the wrong approach to take, they argue.
“We don’t have a child care policy, we have some bits and pieces that have come forward. There’s lots of pieces missing, there’s no plan, there’s no concept of what the funding needs to look like and it’s not backed up by any kind of evidence,” said Martha Friendly, executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit.
“This is not a ‘tweaking’ matter, this is not ‘the sector has spoken.’ What we need is a real comprehensive, well thought out early childhood education and care policy.”