Alberni school board members are all in favour of a proposal for the provincial government to implement a public system of early childhood care.
The Alberni School District trustees voted unanimously at the Tuesday board meeting to endorse the proposed $10/day Child Care Plan put together by the Coalition of Child Care Advocates and Early Childhood Educators of B.C. The plan, which was initially released in 2011 but has yet to be accepted by the provincial government, foresees an integrated public system of education for children in the preschool years, requiring a maximum fee of $10 per day from parents for their child.
“We’ve discussed this many times,” said school board trustee Pat Dahlquist, who is also a board member for the Hummingbird Child Care Centre in Port Alberni. “It would benefit a lot of children that don’t get any benefit now. I’d like to make sure it’s endorsed by our district.”
Trustee Pam Craig agreed, but noted the difficulty of implementing the plan.
“It’s quite a costly program,”
Craig said. “Therefore governments aren’t very receptive to it. But eventually I think some form of this is going to have to happen in order to support family and children. So I think it’s a good thing for us to support.”
According to the University of British Columbia’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), the cost of fully implementing a public education system for all children under age six would be $1.5 billion.
The Coalition of Child Care Advocates argues that the cost could be partially recouped by taxes from more parents entering the workforce as well as business savings from companies not having to replace parents on leave for child care. The plan could also create tens of thousands of jobs for early childhood care workers.
Anthea Finlayson operates a private at-home childcare centre in Port Alberni named Port Puddle Ducks Childcare. For her clients, it’s $35 for a full day of care and $25 for half a day. Finlayson said the plan for a public system may be better for parents who currently have to apply for subsidies, but she has some reservations.
“I’m in favour of making sure that parents have options,” Finlayson said, adding that a $10/day system might pressure families to choose the public system when they would prefer a private care centre.
Blazena Petranek at Ladybugs Child Care Centre said the $10 per day plan doesn’t go far enough.
“It should be free [for parents],” Petranek said.
“When you look at other G8 countries… we’re 30 years behind.” School district chairman Larry Ransom said the board would prepare a letter of endorsement for the plan.