Kids First Parents Association of Canada

Kids First letter of Feb 29, 2008 to BC Minister of Education requesting to be involved in consultation on full day schooling for ages 3-5

Dear Minister Bond:

The throne speech announced the creation of an agency to explore the possibility of full day kindergarten for children ages 3-5.

We ask that the money set aside for this be delivered to parents to help pay for our child care and early learning work and expenses. BC has one of the highest numbers of children with family incomes below the "Low Income Cut-Off". We provide ourselves and also use many forms of care/learning, both paid and unpaid. Group all-day settings are only one option.

Putting massive resources into "underutilized" schools would be a grave disservice to children and their families and would bleed resources from every other learning/care form.

Policy should be evidence-based and in the "best interests of the child":

  • The research from HELP, Statistics Canada,the NICHD and many other sources shows either no benefit from licensed care forms, no lasting benefit, or negative effects.

  • "High quality" child care was NOT shown to alleviate negative behavioural effects in the US NICHD study as HELP staff have erroneously stated. Lasting (to gr 6 at least) negative behavioural outcomes were shown for centre-based care ONLY regardless of "quality". Please contact Dr Jay Belsky for clarification and data:

    Jay Belsky j.belsky@bbk.ac.uk
    Phone: (0)20-7079-0835
    Fax: (0)20-7323-4735
    Mobile: 07855309186

  • High quality care was least often found in group settings and most often in father/relative/family-like settings. Low quality care is the norm in licensed group care in Canada, US, Sweden.

  • Research cited by Gillian Doherty shows that existing daycare staff:child ratios mean over 50% of children do not receive adequate care or developmental opportunities. Ratios would be even worse in a school setting making low quality even lower.

  • Health researchers find rates of illness/infection very much higher in group care settings. Daycares have been called, "the open sewers of the 20th century" by a US epidemiologist. "Super bugs" have been found in these settings. These large health/medical costs must be factored in to any meaningful feasibility study.

    Policy should also be democratic. Your administrative staff over the phone said this is "just an idea", however:

    • The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC has shared this information in their newsletter under the title "Universal 'Child Care' Coming".

    • The Provincial Child Care Council has already discussed this.

    • "Integrating" kindergarten with daycare in schools is not "just an idea" but has been discussed and worked towards nationally at least since 2005.

    • Ontario has announced plans for full day schooling for 4-5 year-olds

    • No polls show parents prefer that public funds for young children's care and learning go to schools/services rather directly than to families.

This discussion has had no democratic opportunity for parents to be involved on an equal footing with unions, daycare advocates, publicly funded researchers such as BC Childcare Coalition, HELP, etc. By equal footing I mean with equal funding for the expenses of meeting, communicating, researching, etc. Our organization, for example, is entirely volunteer run and receives no funding from union, government, or corporations.

Parent participation should also be in numbers proportionate to our role in children's lives: in short parents acting as parents and not as representatives of other bodies should make up the vast majority of the participants—80-90%. The days of "beer and popcorn" dismissive attitudes to parents are over. We hope this government agrees.

You were quoted in the Vancouver Sun Feb 13, 2008 saying, "we recognize that the earlier the investment is made, the more that's going to pay off."

QUESTIONS
  1. Who will the "investment" be paid to?
  2. Who will be in the proposed agency?
  3. How can we be included in it?
  4. What options other than full day kindergarten for 3-5 are being included for discussion?
  5. What plans do you have for making policy for young children both evidence-based and democratically formulated?
  6. What are your plans for including parents as parents on the agency?
  7. How will you ensure unfunded parents can participate on an equal footing in the agency?

I would be happy to share the sources of the above mentioned data with you.

We appreciate your commitment to responding to us.

Sincerely,

Helen Ward, President
Kids First Parent Association of Canada
www.kidsfirstcanada.org
604-291-0088


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