Press Release June 27, 2008

The BC government is conducting a secretive so-called “public” consultation on early learning—but parents are not invited.

The issue is full day schooling for ages 3-5.

Online consultation at: (broken link) There is a July 18 deadline.

Such a major policy initiative requires full, open debate and full disclosure, not a hard-to-find online consultation involving carefully selected “stakeholders.” A search reveals no press release. Kids First was not told of it, even though we wrote Minister Bond asking to be involved.

If they think the public wants this, why not do a poll and ask parents, “Do you want billions more in tax funds going to put little children in ‘underutilized’ schools, or do you want these resources to go to parents to help you provide for your young children’s care and learning?”

Kids First Parent Association found out about this online consultation by accident, even though we wrote the Minister of Education in February asking how we could be involved. The Ministry did not address our request in their response.

The “consultation paper” is supposed to discuss the “feasibility” of this scheme, but does not even address the costs. These could be over $2 billion given that there are about 120,000 children 3-5, and it costs far more—even triple—the approx $7,000 we spend per child in Gr 1-12.

For example: Sweden spends over $20,000 per a full time preschool space, yet even with this amount the government finds inadequate quality of care and learning there.

Kids First is concerned that such an initiative would be harmful to children and bleed resources from existing care and learning provided by parents and others free or for fee. Care and learning are great, but the evidence does not show that school all day for little kids benefits them. Institutional care settings have been consistently shown to cause elevated stress (cortisol), adverse health, and adverse behavioural outcomes. Schools have no monopoly on learning.

“Why is the Minister of Education afraid to tell parents about this so-called consultation? Why not a poll? They must be aware that a meaningful poll would show that parents don’t want their tax dollars drained into a system that will suit few of us and cost billions. Support early learning and care by funding parents so we can provide or pay for services we freely choose without discrimination. The hard evidence does not support this, and in fact it is quite clear that little children suffer increased emotional, behavioural and health problems the more time they spend in institutional settings,” says Kids First President, Helen Ward of Burnaby BC.

Ward is a mother of a child targeted by this proposal.

The Ministry of Education contact is Susan Kennedy, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Learning Agency in the Ministry of Education 250-356-8322.

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