A Vision for Early Learning and Care

At Compass Early Learning and Care we have been thinking about the world we want to live in and how we can contribute to that vision. We believe that access to high quality and affordable early learning and care is essential to communities being able to thrive and we feel a sense of responsibility to advocate for a system that children, families and educators deserve. We support the national commitment that has been made in Bill C-35, an Act Respecting Early Learning and Care in Canada, and feel hopeful that we can build a system on current strengths to continue working towards a vision of what great could look like. To that end, we have highlighted four high level opportunities and proposed short-, medium- and long-term solutions in the tables below.  

Opportunity: Workforce Strategy 

Child care workers are at the heart of the child care system. We require a child care workforce strategy that is adequately compensated for the vital role that early learning and child care workers play in Ontario’s economic and social health.  

Why it Matters 

Higher compensation for workers means higher quality programming that will attract and retain qualified staff. This in turn will support expansion of the child care system and increase access for families.  

Short-Term Solution Create parity with public sector early learning and child care workers at schools and municipally run centres. Increase the wage enhancement by $5 per hour, consistent with increases for PSW’s, with a ceiling of $35 per hour and increase the Provider wage enhancement from $20 to $50 a day in 2024. Extend this grant to all child care program roles (i.e. include nutritionists, special needs resourcing support staff, etc.) and offer an additional 3% on benefit allocations to provide a 3% employer contribution into a retirement benefit plan. 
Medium-Term Solution Funding to support wages starting at $30/hr for RECE, $25/ for other program staff, and benefit allocations to allow for health and retirement benefits and grants to Home Child Care providers that would ensure they receive a take home pay equivalent to a full-time educator in a centre after accounting for operating expenses, including funding to support buying into a health benefit plan and saving for retirement. 
Long-Term Solution Recognize early learning educators as equal to teachers and have commensurate compensation. Have a recognized university program specializing in human development that can provide additional education opportunities for those that want to continue their learning journey beyond the ECE program provided at the college level. 

Opportunity: Quality 

Early learning and care programs that provide safe, caring, joyful spaces for children to investigate and learn about the world around them is the foundation of the child care system we want to grow. Minimum standards set out as licensing requirements do not guarantee quality. Quality is developed in spaces where children are seen as citizens of today, deserving of love, compassion, care and opportunities. 

Why it Matters

Ontario can build a world class early learning and care system. How Does Learning Happen has provided us with an excellent start. To achieve the best overall outcomes we need to support a system where relationships, reflective practice, and a view of children as capable and competent are at the heart of our licensing system.

Short-Term Solution Provide funding to cover wages and benefits of pedagogists and provide educators with at least 2 additional hours a week of focused pedagogical time, out of ratio. Provide provincial professional learning to support consistent pedagogical standards across the province. 
Medium-Term Solution Continue supporting wages and benefits of pedagogists and increase allocation for additional hours outside of ratio to 5 hours a week (1 hour per day). 
Long-Term Solution Co-construct a vision for what quality early learning and care looks like and set the bar higher than minimum licensing requirements.  

Opportunity: Expansion 

We need more child care spaces to meet the demand for licensed child care. There are many opportunities within our communities to increase spaces, but funding is extremely limited. We don’t ask principals of schools to build schools, so why are we asking child care program operators to build child care centres?

Why it Matters

Child care is integral for communities to be able to thrive (i.e. access to child care is directly linked to other sectors, such as healthcare, as many doctors and healthcare professionals are not able to return to work without it). CWELCC has dramatically increased the demand for licensed, quality child care spaces.  

Short-Term Solution Allow access to surplus schools and other public buildings to house child care with long-term leases. Provide additional funding opportunities such as grants, and interest free infrastructure loans to operators. Consider having publicly funded buildings for early learning and care. Offer start up grants for home child care providers. 
Medium-Term Solution Create partnerships with hospitals and long-term care homes to have child care part of new public builds, and similar to schools, base rent on a cost recovery model. 
Long-Term Solution Declare access to early learning and care a right for all children, as with public elementary level education, and make a condition that all child care operators, for-profit and not-for-profit, transfer assets to another operator in the same community at no cost if they close. 

Opportunity: Operating Funding 

Our opportunity is to fund a child care system that honours our children and is not just a custodial arrangement that keeps them safe while their parents work. Our opportunity is to fund a system that will make us world class. We have examples of this kind of child care in our province. Build the system around these examples of excellence. Funding and accountability must go hand in hand. Create a vision of the system we want for children, families and ourselves and fund the programs in a manner that will create that system.

Why it Matters

Appropriate operating funding will help us realize our vision for a child care system. Funding will support our workforce, increase capacity for expansion and give opportunities to think beyond minimum licensing requirements and what is truly needed to provide a high-quality early learning and care program.  

Short-Term Solution Fund operators based on current costs of programs operating exemplary programs, including quality initiatives such as pedagogical leads and professional development, etc. and include funding for short-term workforce strategy initiatives as highlighted in the ‘Workforce Strategy’ section above. Have accountability measures and make it a condition that the government grants provided must be used for early learning and care activities. Make it a condition that for-profit operators can only obtain a profit for the purposes of earning a reasonable salary if the owner is also a director. 
Medium-Term Solution Work with the regional service system managers and child care operators to determine appropriate per diems to adequately provide base funding for high-quality programs. 
Long-Term Solution Invest time and energy into aligning the funding formula towards a vision of what great could look like, incorporating evidence-based research on what correlates with high quality programming. Conduct a visioning exercise, review research and consider places that are known to offer high quality care (i.e. Nordic countries). 

Thank you for taking the time to read this briefing. We would be grateful for your partnered advocacy as a child care champion for the community you support. If you have any questions or would like to think more together about possible solutions and ways to continuously improve the early learning and care system in your community, please don’t hesitate to reach at the contact information listed below.  

With Gratitude,