Dear Stephen Harper. Thanks for the $100 $73. Now where do I spend it?

We attended our first family protest yesterday for an issue that directly affects our children – the lack of quality childcare in Canada.

In a nutshell, the federal government has decided that their childcare strategy consists of giving parents $100 a month (taxable, which is why it really works out to around $73 per month) to spend with as they wish on childcare under the guise that this will offer families “more freedom of childcare choice”.

It’s a crock, and here’s why. Give us all the money you want. That still doesn’t fix the underlying problem that there are not enough quality childcare spaces available, and the competition for those that are available is intense. Parents are getting children on wait lists before they are born and are still unable to find space.

I was interviewed by a radio reporter covering the protest and he asked me if I thought that it was appropriate for the state to be involved in daycare. I was taken aback. There have been many studies that show the benefits of high quality early childhood education programs. According to the American Federation of Teachers, high-quality early childhood development programs have substantial benefits for society.

These studies have established that participating children are more successful in school and in life than children who were not enrolled in high-quality programs.

In particular, children who have participated in high-quality ECD programs tend to have higher scores on math and reading achievement tests, have greater language abilities, are better prepared to enter elementary school, are more likely to pursue secondary education, have less grade retention, have less need for special education and other remedial coursework, have lower dropout rates, have higher high school graduation rates, higher levels of schooling attainment, improved nutrition, better access to healthcare services, higher rates of immunization, better health, and experience less child abuse and neglect.

These children are also less likely to be teenage parents and more likely to have higher employment rates as adults, lower welfare dependency, lower rates of drug use, show less-frequent and less-severe delinquent behavior, engage in fewer criminal acts both as juveniles and as adults, have fewer interactions with the criminal justice system, and lower incarceration rates.

The benefits of ECD programs to participating children enable them to enter school “ready to learn,” helping them achieve better outcomes in school and throughout their lives.

Add in the fact that “investments in high-quality ECD programs consistently generate benefit-cost ratios exceeding 3-to-1—or more than a $3 return for every $1 invested”, and you have some pretty compelling reasons for the state to be involved in developing and delivering high quality childcare.

Ideally, I am sure that every family wishes they would be able to stay at home with their kids. But the economic reality for most families is that they cannot. And, with benefits as compelling as those listed above, it’s hard not to support those calling for more government funding for high quality early education programs for our kids. We all benefit in the end.

7 responses to “Dear Stephen Harper. Thanks for the $100 $73. Now where do I spend it?

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