What do we stand for? Our Kids and Our Future as a Society

March 15, 2008

Angie asked me to be more clear about what we stand for. We stand for our children and we stand for making their chance at being all that they can be be our priority. We have asked the Government to take a time out and hold off piecemeal change. We have asked them to look at the complete picture that is our children – how they are doing and what kind of result we need and why.

We have said that we will only have trouble and even tragedy if we continue to try and accommodate the competing and irreconcilable interests of the people who earn their living in the sector. We are saying that if we put what our children and our society needs first – then we can fit the suppliers into that picture.

I am sure that I may be upsetting you as I make these statements – so please look at the current reality: please have a look at Teresa Wright’s excellent piece in the Guardian today and ask yourself – how would any person reconcile the competing needs of the stakeholders – the owners, the ECE’s and the Teachers?

  • A small inner group of daycare owners and kindergarten who are worried about new competition or worse – universal Kindergarten – that would threaten their living.
  • ECE’s who are worried that Teachers will take their jobs
  • Teachers who are worried about declining enrollment and see Kindergarten as an opportunity to protect their jobs

This is only human – the livelihoods and the place in society that all hold dear are threatened by any change.

For each of these parties to WIN – means a loss for the others. More daycares and kindergartens of a higher quality than the existing ones, threaten the establishment. So the needs for parents to find more quality and more choice in blocked.

This need to protect the current owners is behind the existence of the Board and behind the attempt to change the act to give the board discretion. It is not about qulaity but protection.

Because we have the system we have, we don’t have quality care available to all children and we don’t even talk about them. Because our system is not universal – very large numbers of children have no access to quality care of any kind – their interests are never given voice.

The people who have the voice are those that have a stake. Owners, ECE’s and Teachers circle each other like packs of wild animals staking out their territory.

Where in all of this bitter life and death contest are the interests of children?

If we stay at this level of debate – the interests cannot be reconciled and the certain losers will be our kids and hence all of us.

For there is another layer of context fro all of this. We will have very few young when we are old. PEI will have amongst the least. Currently about 70% of the young who emerge from high school have neither the skills or the wherewithal to cope in society. We face a terrible crisis. Unless we can shift this so that many more can cope, can work, can be relied on to act as fully fledged adults and citizens – we are doomed.

The only place that we have a hope in acting that might give us a chance is in the early years – before our kids get to school. This is the time of greatest leverage where lifetime trajectories are set.

So if we cannot do a much much better job here soon, it’s all over folks.

No one and no interest group can put their immediate needs ahead of this – this being all our future.

So when we say that we stand for all out kids – we also mean that we stand for having a future here on PEI.

Stepping back and looking at what the real potential is and looking at how many are applying best practices in other places is our only chance


Kindergarten Changes – What do you think of the decision?

March 4, 2008

As the week unfolds, we will all get a better picture of what it has been like for parents to make a call given only a weekend’s notice and what it has been like for staff to cope with this instant change. Here is the Guardian’s first report.

This left kindergarten teachers confused about how they would catch those students up to the months of learning they’ve already given the existing kindergarten children.
During a meeting on Monday, the Education Department told early learning educators and operators they don’t have to try to catch them up. They are being asked to offer these children a ‘readiness program’ instead.
This will climatize those children who have not previously been in a child-care environment to taking direction from teachers and will offer some fine motor skills preparation.
But Linda Lowther, senior director of public education, warned this is not the recommended route for children. “It’s barely going to get them ready,’’ she said.

Here is how the CBC told the story today:

Elizabeth Jeffery, owner-operator of Little Wonders Childcare Centre, said she had four students move up from the junior kindergarten on Monday into the regular kindergarten program in order to get them ready for first grade.

“I’ll have one kindergarten class and one readiness class. Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to finish the junior kindergarten class and give them the entire kindergarten curriculum within the next three to four months. It’s not physically possible. The children won’t be able to learn properly,” said Jeffery.

“The Department of Education has just asked us to do a readiness program for those children so that they know how to take care of themselves, go to the bathroom on their own, can work well in groups and so on. But they are not going to have the educational background that the rest of the children have. They are going to be at a great disadvantage.”

What is your opinion? How do you feel about policy being made about you and your children and you and your work – on the fly?


Press Release – Postpone the Change to the Act – Have a real Consultation

February 26, 2008

Here is the Press Release that we have issued today – we ask that the government hold on changing the legislation and that they offer Islanders an authentic consultation process.

The attached 1 page backgrounder will provide the reasons for this request

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
February 26, 2008

PARENTS FOR CHOICE & QUALITY ISSUE
RECOMMENDATION TO MINISTER CURRIE

CHARLOTTETOWN – Parents for Choice & Quality recommend to Minister D.W. Currie, Department of Social Services and Seniors that any changes to the Child Care Facilities Act/Regulations be put on hold until a more comprehensive review of the issues and their potential impact on this critically important matter can take place. This would include a more authentic community consultation process, in addition to a review of such issues as why PEI is the only province in the country with a Child Care Facilities Board; and why the provincial government is considering allowing this structure the latitude to refuse licensing applicants who qualify.

“Our group has grown quickly since it became clear that the Act may be changed in a way that would limit parental choice and possibly impact the quality of child care in PEI.” said April Ennis, Co-Chair of Parents for Choice & Quality.  “After hearing from countless parents, child care professionals and concerned citizens we feel confident in recommending that any changes to the Child Care Facilities Act/Regulations be put on hold until a properly designed community consultation process has been completed.  The current consultation process is not sufficient.  We welcome the opportunity to come to the table and work with the Government in a productive and collaborative manner.”

“We have heard from Minister Currie that he wishes to broaden the consultation process and we support that concept.” said Robert Paterson, a concerned citizen and well known Island blog writer.  “The entire Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations should be thoroughly examined and ample time must be allowed for this work to proceed; it is not something that can be rushed through if we are concerned about enhancing the quality of child care in PEI.”

Parents for Choice & Quality is making this recommendation based on concerns that they have identified related to the following areas; lack of proper community process to date, the potential for conflict of interest from certain members of the current Child Care Facilities Board, the great variance in levels of quality in current child care facilities across the Island, the lack of infant child care spaces currently available and the fact that limiting spaces really means limiting choice and quality. Further information can be found about these issues in the attached Backgrounder.

Parents for Choice & Quality are a group consisting of mothers, fathers, grandparents, child care centres, industry professionals and concerned citizens of PEI that has grown quickly because the current consultation process was designed in reality to limit informed input.  The group is working to ensure that parents get the choice and quality that they deserve for their children.  A website has been established by the group at http://www.choiceandquality.com as well a Facebook group called PEI Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations; which now has in excess of 150 members.

BACKGROUNDER
For Immediate Release
February 26, 2008
Quality & Choice– The stated assumption of the ELOPEI (Early Learning Operators of PEI) and the Department of Social Services is that limiting the number of spaces will create quality. There are 3,000 children on PEI under the age of 24 months. There are 72 licensed child care spaces available for these children. Are 72 spaces sufficient to meet the needs of all of the mothers/fathers who have to go back to work after maternity and parental leave? There are centres that have spaces and there are centres with waiting lists – what does this say about quality? What does this say about the risks of limiting the spaces to the existing centres? How does limiting the number of centres help employees?

Quality and Conflict of Interest– Daycare and Kindergarten on PEI are owned and operated privately (both private and non-profit). We have to remember that. When has limiting competition given the public or employees better quality? Why should the interest of private operators stand ahead of parents and children and the society of Prince Edward Island? Why should child care operators have access to a Board that licenses their competitors? Is this not a conflict of interest? No other province has such a Board that sits between the regulations and the public. What then is the true aim of this Board?

Quality & Risk–We are at risk of not getting the quality that we need if we act too early, before we know what is best.  The opportunity now is to look authentically at what we have and then what we really need and then change the Act.

Quality and Authentic Consultation– To define quality and to get the best system, we need a consultation process that can define true quality. The process of consultation offered to the people of Prince Edward Island so far cannot be justified in a democratic
society. There was already an attempt in the Fall to pass changes to the Act.  These changes would have limited child care spaces.  This occurred with no public input. The changes to the Act were delayed so that a better consultation process could be set up. This has not happened. Very limited time and no context have been offered to the key stakeholders or the general public. Even the recent time extension given does not
compare with other Acts under review; such as the Child Protection act which has a process of months. As important as the time extension is, without the proper context or risk analysis being made available it is virtually impossible for key stakeholders or the general public to provide informed input.

Parents for Choice & Quality are a group consisting of mothers, fathers, grandparents, child care centres, industry professionals and concerned citizens of PEI that has grown quickly because the current consultation process was designed in reality to limit informed
input.  The group is working to ensure that parents get the choice and quality that they deserve for their children.

A website has been established by the group at http://www.choiceandquality.com as well a Facebook group called PEI Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations; which now has in excess of 150 members.

Press Release in PDF form Download here


A Mother Speaks Out

February 19, 2008

Gail says it all