Major gaps in all-day kindergarten plan

A Town Crier Community Column

Raising children in Toronto isn’t easy. Young families have to juggle high mortgages or rent just to live here, which often requires that both parents work.

As more families move into our community, it’s a growing concern I hear everywhere.

The catch-22 boils down to parents having to work, but being unable to afford the child care that lets them.

It can cost around $24,000 a year to keep two children in daycare.

That’s like having a second mortgage or paying double rent, and while many of us hoped all-day kindergarten would help, there are some big problems emerging — and all schools won’t even be offering all-day kindergarten for another three years.

All-day kindergarten will care for four and five year olds. But these children are the least expensive for childcare centres.

In effect, the cheaper cost of looking after older children subsidizes the higher costs of younger ones. So when older children are in school, fees rise as younger kids take up a bigger share.

When 17,000 children already wait for some of the city’s 24,000 subsidized spaces, this is a looming problem for many parents.

It also leads to challenges for childcare centres.

As older children move to school, day care centres need more sleeping and toilet space. Any parent knows a two year old uses these more often, and for longer, than a five year old.

But renovations need money that isn’t there. This has the real potential to create huge bottlenecks as centres can’t afford the capital investment to cater to younger children, and can’t pass these costs along because parents can’t afford to pay them.

Another problem is that while people work year-round, schools do not. As more child care is delivered through the school system, finding spaces during the summer, March break or over the Christmas holidays, will get harder.

Impossible may be a word many parents will use. It’s hard enough finding space already. Imagine the demand during the three times of the year when kids will flood out of schools and need somewhere to go while parents are at work.

Unfortunately, the McGuinty government chose to take only bits of experts’ advice in building a new, mostly school-based system.

Three years before the whole thing takes full effect, it’s clear major challenges exist.

Let’s hope the government stops cherry-picking expert advice and uses the upcoming budget to stabilize things for parents, children and daycare providers.

About this article:

By: Peter Tabuns
Posted: Mar 9 2011 4:20 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto