Parents for Choice & Quality Applaud Government

April 4, 2008

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2008

PARENTS FOR CHOICE & QUALITY APPLAUD GOVERNMENT FOR RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE EARLY YEARS

The Parents for Choice and Quality wish to applaud the Honourable Premier Ghiz and his government for recognizing the importance and long term benefits of investing in the early childhood years.

We agree that kindergarten programs will benefit Island children within a school setting.  We are encouraged to hear that the government plan to conduct a thorough, careful and sensitive consultation process prior to any changes transpiring.  “There are many factors to consider. We believe in an integrated system of community-based early child development and parenting centres linked to the school system.” said April Ennis, co-chair of Parents for Choice and Quality.

“We are looking forward to continued consultation and work with the government regarding the early years.” commented Jane Boyd, co-chair of Parents for Choice and Quality. “We are pleased that the government recognizes that Prince Edward Island must do more to offer Island children the best possible education. We know that the way to do that is to start in the early years.”

Expanded funding for children ages 18 – 24 months to the CHANCES Best Start Program is a welcomed announcement which will benefit families greatly.

Parents for Choice and Quality support the development and implementation of a high quality early learning and support system for all preschool aged children and their families on PEI. The group, representing mothers, fathers, grandparents, child care centres, industry professionals and concerned citizens of PEI, has grown quickly out of concern related to recent government decisions that are impacting early childhood development.

We envision a system for Early Child Development that ranks in importance with the formal school system. Such a system would have to be universal. All children would have to be included. Such a system would draw on the well-established research and expertise in the field and on the new best practice in the nation in other provinces.  One of our key goals is to ensure that the interests of parents and our children are paramount and that parents get the choice and the quality that they deserve.

  


Guardian Questions Lack of Consultation

March 9, 2008

Here are some excerpts from an editorial in the Guardian this weekend.  Click here to see the full text. 

The government is hesitant to make a decision until there is a general consensus for or against. It makes one wonder if this government has a firm stand on anything. So it came as a stunning surprise when the government decided late last week to make a major change to the age when children enter kindergarten and school. 

Kindergarten is one area where parents need lots of time to look for the right facility, get on a waiting list, and budget for the expense. Parents didn’t need to be panicked into making rash decisions. The announcement last Thursday came without warning for the majority involved in early childhood learning, who were given just three days warning to modify lesson plans for the rest of the year and accommodate new children who had never been to kindergarten before. It appears that a small, vocal minority stampeded government into making a rash decision, leaving parents and teachers scrambling to make sense of the whole thing.

Parents don’t want to hold their children back while friends move on. So, during a meeting on Monday, the Education Department told early learning educators and operators they don’t have to try to catch them up. Instead, they are being asked to offer these children a ‘readiness program.’ Yet a senior staffer warned parents this is not the recommended route for children. If senior staff hasn’t signed on, why is the department proceeding? The readiness program is not ready because staff is still scrambling to put it together. 

The new eligibility date will put the P.E.I. start date more in line with the rest of the country, so the issue isn’t the change of dates; it’s the absence of consultation with stakeholders. There should have been a year or more advance warning given.The key issue should have been what’s best for the child. That wasn’t addressed properly here. Greenan had better be prepared for some tough questions when the house opens next month. 


February 27, 2008 is the next Consultation Meeting – Plan to Attend!

February 16, 2008

Never actually saw the original letter or advertisement inviting people to participate in the PEI consultation meetings regarding the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations? 

Well here they are (see below).  Note the date on the letter.  Not much advance warning given regarding the meetings for busy ECE’s, parents or interested community members. Also, no information was provided about what the proposed changes were or the actual consultation process.  Considering that the Department is “in the process of drafting new legislation” it might have been helpful to share what the actual draft legislation was.  As we now know, the main proposed change has to do with limiting the number of new child care spaces to be created on PEI.

I, like many others,  did not make any of these meetings – due to the short notice.  I wonder how people actually did?  Did you?  In any case, it does seem that the dialogue has now moved to a new level. The dialogue is happening online, in the media, within the Government, in the child care communities, among parents and with interested citizens.  This is good…people are finally aware of what is happening and there is discussion truly happening. As Rob notes, there are now many members on the Facebook Group regarding this issue and it is growing by the hour…this evening it has increased to 108 members.  I wonder if this is more people than attended the original consultation meetings?

It is important to note that in a recent Press Release

…the Minister said that it would be premature to comment on the status of the legislation until government receives further input. “Consultations will proceed to completion and another public consultation meeting is scheduled for February 27 to allow this important discussion to continue,” said Currie.
 

I am thankful that the Minister has agreed to extend the process and provide additional opportunity for dialogue. Hopefully more people will be able to attend the upcoming meeting (Feb 27 – The meeting will be from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express on Trans Canada Highway in Charlottetown). It is important that the conversation continues and that it becomes broader in scope.  I do hope that Department staff recognize this. It is no longer appropriate to just discuss the issue of limiting new licenses.  Let’s talk about quality, staff child ratios, how licenses are issued, staff qualifications, how qualifications are assessed, the role of the PEI Child Care Facilities Board, funding to enhance quality and support operations and much, much more.  There is much room for improvement and this can only really occur through a proper consultation process.

Plan to be there!   This issue is very important to the future of PEI’s children and families.

Here is a copy of the original meeting letter.

Letter_re_consultations_4

Also, here is a copy of the original ad that ran in the paper.

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A Model Consultation

February 13, 2008

Jane Boyd who has recently set up a new Montessori in Summerside writes this about what a “Real Consultation” would be like:

Over my many years of being involved in child care I have seen many different variations of consultation processes in communities across the country. Certainly, there can be ranges in the level of quality in these processes, that is to be expected. Sometimes consultations are hurried along faster than what any of us might like. Sometimes they are slow and methodical and seem to take forever to complete. Sometimes they are just right. Unfortunately, what has happened on PEI in recent days seems to be fairly hurried and almost predecided. This is certainly concerning. How can a consultation truly be a consultation if it appears that the answers are already in place? How can a consultation be open and accountable if it is over before anyone even knows that it is happening?

I Googled the definition of the word consultation. Here are a few of the definitions that came up:

A technique of social interaction where opinions of all stakeholders are sought before a decision is made.

Seeking information or advice from another person taking into account their feelings, interests and expertise.

Communication between persons/groups. May have a range of purposes including the collection or dissemination of information, or identification or resolution of issues. There must be a willingness to listen and change, adequate information and sufficient time.

Here is an example of a Press Release for a child care regulation consultation process that took place in British Columbia a few years ago. The date of the Press Release was September 10, 2004. See below for key timelines related to when and how people could make submissions. My point in listing this is simply to demonstrate that successful consultation processes should allow for ample time, stakeholder notification and dialogue. This is especially essential if major changes are anticipated as an outcome of the consultation process.

The consultations will take place through to Oct. 28, 2004 and will enable people in care, their families and care providers, advocates and the public to review and discuss the proposed changes. Members of the public are encouraged to submit written presentations at the consultation meetings or via the ministry’s website at…until the end of December. The consultation documents will be posted to the website following the public meetings. The updated regulations are expected to take effect in spring 2005.


Your Voices – Comments from the Guardian

February 13, 2008

There is an article in the Guardian about the issue of less spaces – here is the link – what is even more interesting are the comments that follow. Here are some of them:

Darryl from PEI writes: Its interesting that Ms Hogan suggested in another article that We’re hoping, instead of every centre having one good early childhood educator, then if there was less centres then you would have more of a pool to pick from. So maybe I could have two or three really strong childhood educators, said Hogan.

If I was working within her facility I would wonder if I was the good one or not. If I was a parent I would wonder as well about her staff now being unmotivated due to her comments. I know my sons daycare has more than one strong staff member, they are all strong educators. Maybe Ms Hogan should concentrate on making sure she has happy staff instead of trying to limit her competition. I think her comments are a slap in the face to those people she employs and supposedly represents.

a parent of 2 from charlottetown, pei writes: I am just wondering about all the oversupply of spaces in the day cares, I am on a waiting list at 3 differant charlottetown days cares for months now. seems like all the top childcare centres are full..
…things that make me go hmmmm..

I agree from PE writes: Ok, so this time i do not agree. I don’t agree with the comments on keeping a parent home to look after the children. Also downsizing isn’t always an option.

We are a professional couple, with student loans to pay, along with regular bills. We do live in a small house.. 1100sq ft (no basement) and 5 of us. We only own one vehicle, and well there is still no option for one of us to stay home.

GIve your heads a shake. There is a problem with finding decent childcare. In some areas we need more centers, in others it should be regulated. I am not sure where they are finding the extra spaces or where the daycares are that are laying off staff, but they certainly can’t be within the Charlottetown or Cornwall areas, and if they are, there is probably a reason why parents don’t bring their children there.

I think the focus should be more on investing in QUALITY childcare, not making new rules for what is already there. Why bother spending time on this when things can be done about what is already there.

Being home would be a great option, if it were still the 50’s and fuel/groceries/mortgage/propane were priced as then as well. Its just not an option these days for most families.

sick from the drink writes: Part of my problem with all of this is that much of what we are hearing in support of this limitation comes sector representatives. So the Early Learning Operators of PEI support the changes that would limit the ability of others to open new daycares – those with existing childcare facilities are lobbying to prevent the creation of new childcare facilities. No kidding. What business owner wouldn’t want to prevent competition. So, let them state their case – but recognize that this lobby is heavily invested in the outcome, and can’t possibly be neutral in this issue.

The bottom line is that if a centre is well run and offering a good experience for the child, parents will put their children in that centre, regardless of whether or not the bargain bin centre down the road is a few bucks cheaper. The free market has its flaws, but promoting competition between businesses does provide give an incentive for businesses to meet the needs of their customers.

Oh, and to the folks who are slamming those who have kids in daycares, get over yourself. I make pretty decent money on a PEI scale and my wife stays home with our kids. But with only my income, and the ever-rising costs of owning/heating/maintaining a home, we are still barely able to make ends meet. And that is with a wage that is better than many others. The reality is that many families need two parents in the workforce just to pay the bills, and they don’t have family who are able or willing to meet their childcare needs.

Thersa M from PEI writes: This is old news folks. They tried to push this through back in the Fall. Now they are trying again only this time, they are being sneaky about it. ‘Extending the deadline’ to Feb 15th when many people did not even know that there was any consultation process going on.

Something is not right here. Why is the Department of Social Services even thinking of limiting spaces when the current system clearly does not work.

I agree with the person who said that we need quality and that we need to focus our attention on that point. A monopoly will not produce quality. Tried and true.

I say keep things open and encourage healthy competition. If weeding out needs to happen then let it happen naturally.

Our children will be the ones who benefit.

When a ‘social worker’ plays economist it hurts from laughing AND crying after, all, market intervention writes: Absolutely frightening that a social worker appears to be heading up a market intervention via limiting the number of facilities.

This is th esame approach used for lobster licences where prices were driven through th eroof for product and entry into the industry.

Ms. Jones ought to be aware that limiting access to free markets is not simply ‘protecting little people.’ As to her reference to Tim Horton’s – it’s highly inappropriate and unprofessional.

Moreover, if I was in the employ of Tim Horton’s, why couldn’t my children be able to attend a company sponsored facility?

If I wasn’t feeling so charitable, the word idiot would be rolling off my keyboard…

Kristine Nagata from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island writes: Placing a freeze on new childcare centres may impact a parents freedom to choose what they feel is most appropriate to the needs of their child. Could this decision cause complacency in the sector? The number of people entering the childcare field has declined – it’s been proven that low wages, lack of respect, and little support, have the greatest impact on staffing in the childcare sector. Until owners and/or operators improve wages and working conditions, there will continue to be a shortage of qualified childcares providers. It sounds as though one of ELOPEI’s concerns is that new centres are taking away from and jeopardizing the sustainability of existing programs. They feel they may lose children and staff to new facilities making them vulnerable. It begs the question, why do some childcare centres have vacant spaces while others have wait lists? What’s the real issue here?

Bitter from PEI writes: I don’t understand how they can say that 67% are operating under their capacity. When my maternity leave was up, I was still on several waiting lists for daycares, and had gone to see many private child care givers, none of whom I felt were suitable to be looking after children. Maternity leave is only one year, and very few daycares and even very few private childcare givers are willing to take in a one year old. So what’s a mom to do when faced with no choices? Do I send my child to a place that I find depressing after spending only twenty minutes there, or do I quit my job? Neither one is an ideal situation, however, for the sake of my child, I chose to quit my job and as a result, I can barely make ends meet. So thank you child care on PEI.


Concerned? Sign the petition

February 13, 2008

Here is a link to a petition – Concerned that we are being rushed and that there are risks in confining the issue to spaces?

Here is the text – if you agree please go to the link here and sign.

The Prince Edward Island Government has quickly and quietly asked for public input into the proposed amendments to the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations. I am only addressing one proposed amendment of the Act in this petition.

I do not feel the government gave due notice and opportunity to educate the public on the proposed changes to the Act and allow for quality feedback during public consultations.

1. Little notice was given to allow for working families or public to attend public consultations.

2. Little information was given as to the actual proposed changes to the Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations. A link to the Act was advertised (link below), but there was no way of knowing what amendments have been proposed.

3. The Child Care Facilities Act and Regulations states:
“12. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the Board “shall” issue a license to operate a facility, to an applicant if it is satisfied that
(a) the applicant and the facility comply with all prescribed requirements;
(b) the facility complies with all pertinent provincial and municipal laws; and
(c) the applicant has paid the prescribed fee.”

Through word of mouth, I have heard that the government would like to change the word “shall” to “may” so that they can have the final say over whether a new child care license application is awarded even if they meet all the required criteria as stated in the Act and Regulations.

This one word change could have huge implications to many on PEI, including parents, students, employees, and entrepreneurs or organizations who may wish to open or expand their services in other communities.

4. If parents allow this to pass, and the Board decided to freeze any new licenses, parents would lose their freedom of choice when looking for a child care facility for his/her child. There would be limited competition. Full centres would remain full with the potential of long waiting lists. Working parents may be forced to place their children in lower quality centres in order to earn an income.

5. Students in early childhood education programs may have limited job opportunities on PEI due to no job openings or growth. Other graduates would not be able to fulfill their vision of starting their own business.

6. The first five years of a child’s life is very critical and lays the foundation of learning for the rest of their lives. It all comes down to the best interests of the children of Prince Edward Island. The children of today are the future leaders of tomorrow.

Please do not let the PEI Child Care Facilities Board decline a license application if an applicant has met all the required criteria. They should not have the authority to limit the amount of child care spaces on PEI.

You can sign here at this link


Welcome – Consultation?

February 13, 2008

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.

N802425531_2229678_6840

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