Amid the corner-cutting exercise that was the September BC budget, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope: actual money was alloted for the expansion of kindergarten to full day. Could it be that the BC government has finally started to get it and is planning to heed its own report on childcare (as I’ve recommended earlier on this blog)?
Well, the Early Childhood Learning Agency — the one that was established in the spring of 2008 to study the feasibility and costs of expanding kindergarten to a full day for 5-year-olds — concluded that expanding early learning programs in BC is both desirable and feasible. It did indeed recommend a gradual expansion of full-day programs for 3- to 5-year-olds. So far so good.
However, in its final report, Expanded Early Learning in British Columbia for Children Age Three to Five, the Agency estimated the total operating costs to about $130 million per year for full day K for 5-year-olds once fully implemented. That is to say that it would cost more to get the system going (it always does).
The BC government has budgeted $44 million in 2010/11 when half of BC 5-year-olds are expected to be covered by the program and $107 million in 2011/12 when the program is planned to cover all 5-year-olds. These amounts come to 34% and 82% of the annual operating costs estimated by the Early Childhood Learning Agency. And that’s during the two years that the program will be set up, when facilities need to be found, new teachers/early childhood educators recruited and curriculum and program standards developed. This just doesn’t add up.
Not to mention that no funding is provided in this fiscal year to enable the Ministry of Education to prepare for these programs by undertaking the next steps recommended by the Early Childhood Learning Agency:
1. carrying out a detailed facilities analysis and starting to prepare space for programs;
2. creating a human resource strategy; and
3. developing program standards for full day kindergarten for five-year-olds
If the government’s own report is to be believed, then the budgeted amounts for all-day-kindergarten are too low to start up a good quality program.