Will limiting spaces help quality and all our kids?
Welcome to this site where we can deepen our understanding of the issues related to Child Care and the Act on PEI
There is quite a stir on PEI right now – at stake is who comes first in Child Care – the operators of the businesses who provide Child Care or the interests of the parents and their children.
A quick heads up on the context for this.
On PEI all child care centres and all Kindergarten are run as businesses. In the case of Kindergarten, the province pays approved operators a fee per child. All operators are licensed under the act in question. The heart of the act are two things:
- If an operator meets the stated guidelines of the act they “Shall” get a licence
- The process of granting the license has been delegated not to a bureaucrat working under the authority of the Minister but to a board. This board is weighted towards the existing operators and staff of the system. There is one parent member who is appointed.
The challenge for many operators and owners is that some centres are not doing well and have many open spaces. Others are doing very well and have waiting lists. Parents have an excellent network and know which centres are better than others.
The Operators of the existing centres obviously would like to spread the wealth around.
Prior to the Fall session of the legislature in 2007, they met amongst themselves and made a decision – to amend the act. There was one word change in the proposed new act.
In the old act, the guts of the act was this. If a new operator met all the regulatory tests in the act – the Board “SHALL” grant the licence. The word change was to “May”. In other words the board – heavily influenced by the operators – would have discretion on who was given a licence
The public – parents and those not part of the “Club” were not consulted. In fact no one outside the “Club” knew anything about this until the act was tabled. When, at the last moment this text was discovered, this lack of consultation was pointed out and the government withdrew the act with the promise that a better consultation would be offered.
The point of this post is to ask whether the following process can be seen to be an honest attempt to consult or something else. You make up your mind.
In the week of Jan 28th, a letter dated Jan 25th (a Friday) was received by many in the Child Care business stating that a series of meetings would be held the next week to discuss the new act. No details of any changes were highlighted. The Charlottetown meeting – affecting nearly 50% of the Island was set for Feb 4, a Monday, in the afternoon during the working day. Meetings in Montague were set for Feb 6 and Summerside on Feb 7.
So in reality, busy people were given no more than a week’s notice. Anyone who had a job would not have been able to attend the key meeting.
At the Charlottetown meeting, the few attendees, mainly from government, were handed a piece of paper headed like this.
Attendees were given no list of any proposed amendments of the act. Nor did they get any brief that describe the implications of any changes.
None of the material online defines the changes or implications.
Since then, a spokesperson has spoken on the radio in response to concerns raised by parents. She said that there were too many open spaces. The department’s proposed solution was to limit the creation of any further spaces. The spokesperson said that the future quality of the system would be protected if the number of spaces were limited to the existing system.
No further information about any of the proposed changes has been made available.
Rumours abound. One is that one further seat on the board that will make the call on who gets licensed will be given to a representative of ELOPEI – the operators association. The current sitting member for the ECDA is also a member of ELOPEI.
In the radio interview on Monday this week. The CBC asked the spokesperson who was pressing for this change. Her answer was the ECDA and ELOPI.
There are no doubt good reasons to have a good look at the act. What is quality and how is it obtained are powerful questions. How can we do better for kids is a great question.
But the process does not allow this deep debate and seems in reality set to railroad one idea and one set of interests.
Is this right?
More – a lot more – later