Is universal childcare the route to optimal early learning?

The federal budget just announced aims to provide ‘early education’ to the nation’s children.  As a profession and as educators trusted by society to defend the rights of children to optimal learning, we teachers must weigh in on this document and its significant risks to our profession and the grey areas it creates about learning goals..

The federal budget when it talks of early learning, needs careful scrutiny by teachers.

I  point out my concerns about the plan  in these  areas.

1. our profession

2.the nature of learning -where it happens and what is considered having had early education

3. the nature of learning- pacing, and individual needs

4. skills development, interests and diversity

4. education testable provable metrics for learning

5. socialization

6. special needs children

7. the cost of the plan and economic flaws

8. the focus on jobs not kids

9. negative outcomes of the Quebec model it wishes to imitate

10. the nature of learning and what teachers should do to defend it


1. our profession

We are a teaching profession and it took us years to be recognized as one. A century ago a person out of high school could quality to teach after only a few months of training and often rural teachers were still under 20. We have upped the qualifications and rightly so. We know that a university education makes us better at our subject area, and more competent  at understanding the nature of children and their styles of learning . We have been trained in how to teach, in strategies to make a subject interesting, how to monitor learning and adjust our approach to make sure that students get an optimal experience. Our training in testing helps us meet standards, determine if goals are achieved and learning advances towards deeper mastery of a subject. We are trained in specialty areas to offer specific expertise in music or art or math,, science, second languages or computers. We learned well so we can teach well. We have a lot ot offer.

I point this out because the federal plan is using terms that threaten to erode the work we have done to gain respect for our profession’s unique skills. We are certified teachers with university training and academic credentials. However nice they are as people, when the childcare staff now claims to be teachers, educators, professional educators or experts in the field of early learning, we should stand up and insist the distinction is clear -they are not certified teachers.

Most adults who work with children apply the odd bandage and comfort minor scrapes, fatigue and boredom of little kids. They all have to ‘nurse ‘little kids back to health when they are a little under the weather. But no one would claim to be a nurse doing that because the nursing profession has worked very hard to defend its territory and its expertise. They too went through this long fought battle to get respect, to pursue higher academic qualifications. Nurses  insist we use terms to recognize their designation – nurse is a professional qualification. They even insist on distinctions the public is aware of to make sure that the more rigorous and longer training of a registered nurse RN is acknowledge as different from  that of a licensed practical nurse LPN. 

We teachers have not been vigilant enough about our profession and terminology/ Now the childcare lobby has slowly eroded the term teacher claimed our designations as their own, without having put in the qualifier academic training we put in.  This is not just a vague insult to us More seriously it poses a risk of deceiving the public. When the public refers to daycare workers as ‘teachers’ their lobby has blurred the lines even in the public mind. The childcare lobby benefits from that confusion.  We have worked hard to have high standards not just to qualify to do our jobs but high standards as we do our jobs. We have professional codes of ethics and we work diligently for the wellbeing and education of the child. The public trusts us. It is handy for the daycare lobby to  let lesser trained people ride on the coattails of the reputation we worked so hard to build.

The federal budget however likes the confusion and even promotes it. In this budget it promotes the plan, akin to the public school system. It equates this plan with ‘infrastructure’, making it seem basic to society, like roads and bridges and this should alert us to a blurring of the lines.. What this plan offers may claim to be but is not an ‘education ‘ system, with qualified teachers and parameters of actual learning.  We should be wary of the slippery use of terms. Here is  quotes from the budget:

            -this will be a transformative project on a scale with the work

            of previous generations of Canadians who built a public school system

            -ensure that early childhood educators are at the heart of the system,

            valuing their work

As the childcare centres asked to move into the schools, to have their own location in a basement or gym for ‘before and after school care’ this move  exacerbated the confusion for parents. Having a place that is the same place for the child from 7AM to 6PM is very convenient for the parent and may be somewhat comforting for the child, though possibly boring. The child goes to the childcare centre, down the hall to the classroom for school and then back to the centre when school is done.

.Was this use of the same building good for kids? We all know that many who go to after care are kind of sad to go there, and jealous of those who get picked up or get to go home. Some like the activities at the child care centre but there seems a tone also of sadness, in my experience. This is no reflection on great staff there who do their best. It is just that the child at the end of the day is tired of rules and four walls and wants some change of scene.

However having a childcare operation right in the schools had  a system advantage in that the daycare had to pay rent to a very cash-strapped school system.  The schools welcomed the new revenue. What slowly has happened though is that the  public perception is now that it is ‘all’ school and that the workers at the daycare are also ‘teachers’. Let’s just say that the nursing profession would not tolerate this confusion.

When we teachers insist on our territory and that daycare worker credentials not be confused with our own, this is not out of ego. This is to protect the public. They deserve clarity on what the training level is.

The federal plan claims to have consulted the experts in the field. It  is not at all clear that it consulted adequate us  professional teachers. If this is going to be called an education plan, we should have been consulted .It seems that those consulted were a closed group of childcare operators and advocates.

            -following consultations with stakeholders

This exclusion of our input is inconsistent with claims that the plan looks at all points of view.

            -committed to a decision-making process that considers

            the impacts of policy proposals on Canadians from all angles

The term expert comes from the Latinexpiri,and is directly linked to experience, the gaining of competence from having worked to develop a skill well over time. We know that an expert at mountain climbing is one who has climbed many mountains.  An expert about nuclear physics has done a lot of academic study and likely has a string of degrees.

The professions of law, medicine, accounting, engineering create expertise by combining these two routes to it. There is the academic study but there is also a compulsory in service experience required, to learn the ropes from those in the field. So we combine books and hand on, academics and the value of mentorship.  

In the childcare field there is a complexity to the claim of being ‘expert ‘ however. Logically an expert at care of a child is someone who has taken care of this child or many children for years. A parent may not be knowledgeable about all the world’s two year olds but is usually very familiar with the needs and interests of their own two year old. The expert in care of  given child is usually the parent so experience does matter.

However when we speak of education that is a profession with different goals. The goals of having the baby roll over and crawl, talk or use a spoon are developmental goals that interestingly cannot be taught in group but have to be taught one child at a time. The experts at this probably do tend to tilt towards experience not books as a qualifier . In the realm of teaching a child to read or do math, to weigh logic and handle the scientific method, the book training we have had however matters a lot.

When childcare workers claim expertise equivalent to our own as educators, that is a leap that does not seem reasonable to make.  One of the things a profession learns is its limits. An engineer is not necessarily an adept food critic, might be,might not be.  Certified professional teachers knows they are not experts at parenting teens through some relationship hurdles. We have our area and we do it well but there are other things we are just ordinary people at.

The federal plan seems to overuse the terms of expertise however and applies them only to daycare staff. and intesestingly to daycare theorists who sit in offices.  A program for childcare, one would hope, would have consulted those who take care of children day in and day out- the parents, grandparents, sitters, nannies, and the daycare workers. This plan seems to have left out all but the last group.

A plan that is about learning and education should have consulted us teachers. It is not at all clear that it did.

2.the nature of learning – where it happens and what is considered having had an education

The childcare movement only recently focused on early learning. It used to define itself as daycare or childcare but  now often adds the wording ‘early learning’. It has however not changed its practice. The parameters of its operation do not seem to have any more educational components than they ever did. There are toys, play stations, outdoor play areas, and there are pencil and paper activities, work with scissors, coloring, board games, and story time.  These are not new. They are also not different from what children do in the home, with a grandparent, sitter, nanny or parent. 

What is problematic about this plan is that it claims to ‘own’ early learning, as if only in its one style, in that one location, do children learn. That is the problem. It claims a monopoly it does not have.

Children learn wherever they are.

In earlier times the childcare movement admitted that it did not teach children to read.  Learning to read is a complex skill and children vary profoundly in their interest in it, their preconceptions about it, their oral skills. hand dexterity and attention span. I is possible to teach a 3-4 year old the letters and their sounds, to teach them to sound out words but is only achievable with patience, gentle progressive steps matching precisely the learning style of that child.  To teach a little child to read by age 5 would be  tremendous advantage for entering the school system. Once kids are in grade one by about half year through the year they are expected to be able to read  at least a little bit..  But the childcare centres in this plan will not  teach kids to read.  They can’t.

They may wish they could and the children are with them long enough each day that they possibly could give each some one on one time but they really are not arranged to be bel to do that. There are just too many kids at once and with too diverse a range of learning needs. Some will confuse b and d, some will mispronounce r and seem to not understand it. Some will have trouble holding a pencil and some will come from  a background where the target language is not spoken in the home.  So daycares do not even try to each reading.

 What they did used to promise was ‘prereading’, meaning that they would read to the children, have them color worksheets with letters on them, have them chant the alphabet.  These however are not reading and most parents and grandparents do at least as much.  Therefore there is no literacy advantage to the ‘early learning’ style at the centres, and it is ‘as good as’ home but not necessarily better.

It claims however to be better.

The budget argues this in several statements.

            – to offer each and every child the best start in life

            -every child deserves a fair start

            -to offer each and every child the best start in life

The claim that the childcare center is the ‘best’, has problematic implications  for human rights law. By implying that care by a grandparent or parent is less competent and somehow inferior it risks suggesting that only the state can parent. This is not the way the Convention on the Rights of the Child speaks of the role of the parent. That convention says that the parent is the one who is most likely to know the best interests of this child. Any government policy that argues that the parent is not knowledgeable offends the principle of respect.

The budget in some quarters may even be seen as racist when it reads in terms of indigenous people

            ‘26% of indigenous people had no educational


            “Inuit men were most likely to report none”

These phrases seem a denial of respect for experience in living.  Formal education is not the only type of education and for survival, wisdom about the environment, street smarts about practicalities, human relations wisdom about kindness and listening skills are being ignored when a budget makes such statements. The childcare plan being promoted offers one type of ‘early learning’ but not the wide range of  the depth of learning that humans need

The budget is not sensitive to the great wisdom that immigrants bring to Canada, or to their competence to teach their children their own culture, religion and language. The suggestion the parents are not able to transmit useful practical knowledge for a child to thrive could be seen as hurtful and demeaning to immigrants in particular. The plan suggests that only if children learn this childcare center way, in this centre language, will they get the ‘best start in life’

The plan also suggests that the children of Canada only will have the chance to do well in the future, and have ‘equal opportunities’ if they have the same standardized early childhood .

            -making sure that everyone has the same access to opportunities

The access is through one gate only and the state is saying what it is – and only funding that one gate. In fact parents offer many opportunities and the plan does not even admit parents do this competently.  Parents and grandparents, sitters, nannies, private daycare centres, none of which are funded by this plan, also give children ‘opportunities’.

A person could even argue logically that in smaller group numbers, those less formalized situations are more flexible to take children every day for outings, to take them to parks, museums, the zoo, shopping, to athletic parks.  The federal plan assumes that parents do not on their own give opportunities, so assumes a very low bar of competence among parents.  By funding only the daycare center, not the parent, it also makes it less likely parents can afford to spend time or money to provide anything but the childcare centre opportunities. It is an answer that precludes other answers.

3. the nature of learning – pacing, and individual needs

We  teachers are very aware that kids differ. It is part of our insight, that you cannot teach all kids the same way. We know that small children differ dramatically in developmental stage even though they are the same chronological age. Even a few months of premature birth make a large difference in the milestones babies are able to meet and we know that they all do mostly reach the milestones but at quite different speeds. They crawl, sit, talk, at vastly different rates and when we are speaking of early childhood, our very youngest children, we see the differences  dramatically.

This plan however does not. It puts children into a large system not a finely tuned small system.  The large childcare centres are staffed by very kind, patient people who want to do the best for their young charges,  and yet the system itself, to be affordable to government, tends to create group size that makes individual attention nearly impossible.

It also tends to divide children by chronological age alone.

The group size issue is an educational issue. The ratio of adults to newborns can be one adult to three infants.  This ratio is able to ensure babies get fed and diapered, in a way that is safe but not necessarily immediately as needed.  It is good enough but not necessarily as attentive as care one on one would be. There is less time to cuddle and console the baby because there are other babies needing cuddling too. 

This ratio problem continues as the baby learns to crawl and walk, and the ratio increases.  The ability of one adult to tend several toddlers again meets the standard of safety with gates to prevent accidents, and safety belts on high chairs, playpens and limits to ensure all is good enough. But it is not possible to create a situation of more spontaneous freer range for the young child to explore. 

When children learn to talk, again the best intentions in the world  in such large care centres cannot take the time to one on one listen to the babblings of each child.There is just no time to reinforce the naming of objects and words, as they come up, with joy and celebration. The adult will do that when they can but they are stretched, so they can only attend so well.

When the 2 year old is asking questions, the one caregiver can try to answer many of those but when they are coming from many 2 year olds at once, the normal reaction of any adult is to ask for quiet, to valueorder, and to instil in very young children the idea that they should not ask questions much, but should listen more.  This subtle shift , based on the logical need for crowd control creates however in a young child the idea that questions may not have answers, that they should just forget about imponderables if they are wondering about things. They start to focus tmore on what is likely to be an avenue encouraged – quiet play.  Is the mind being stimulated? Yes, with the toys and little games the group is given, but not necessarily for individual inquiry.

Little kids who want some sense of self, who need to discover who they uniquely are, are in  a place where nothing much is theirs. They have their chair and their backpack and  their coat. One sees how zealously little kids want to have something that is just for them when we see the great concern and tears when someone takes their eraser or their toy. And yet these items are often mostly to be shared. The child is not really seen as unique but as one among many, from very young.

When a system just cannot have staff and time to hear the little questions of the child, something is lost. The childcare ‘early learning’ of unique talents may be happening but not necessarily any better than in a location where one adult has more time with this child. The childcare center is ‘good enough’ but not necessarily better than other locations at stimulating a creative and questionning mind.

When children are older than toddlers, and they have even more physical skills and energy, their boundless spirit to move and jump, run and explore, is able to do that at the centre, but only a few times a day, in outings to the outdoor play area or a gym. Because  of the physical limitations of the building, the space for children is often small, and for a while such a small space may not feel confining, with a table and a chair. But for kids who need to move, to run  this can be confining if they are in the same place hour after hour, day after day.

 The cute little toys, the colorful plastics, the little play kitchen, the blocks for learning are now very familiar, and boring. The young mind wants variety and the childcare center is simply unable to provide much. Other care styles realize this need of a child for variety and a place to run and do try to satisfy those with outings to parks, to athletic areas for kids, and even to just run around in a mall and play on the rides. However a childcare center cannot do that.

 At the most it can offer a special planned outing as a group to the airport or the zoo, once a week or more likely once a month, with much administrative planning for bussing and supervision and keeping kids on a rope to be safe. The difference in outings options for this style of care and the other care styles of sitter, nanny, grandparent can be significant. It is true that some kids outside of childcare centres do not go out and play’ much but most do. The assumption that only the childcare centre offers the wide range of educational stimulation therefore is not logical. Other styles do as well and some do much more than the centre can. Oddly the expression our culture uses of the ‘stay at home mom’ is not very appropriate either It is often the nanny, parent, grandparent, dad taking care of the child who gets them out a lot on frequent fun outings. Both parties like the variety and the stay at home designation is a misnomer.

3. skills development, interests and diversity

Children not only develop at different rates but we teachers know that kids also differ in interests. Some are musical, some artistic, some are gifted very young at math or logic. Some are born scientists and many are born athletes. It is fun to see the diversity and even in class discussions to hear the wide range of interests. It is a challenge to even have books for our school children that try to tap all that diversity.

 A person has to be very attentive to these kids and try to make sure there is a story about trains for the child who loves trains, a story about elephants for the child who loves elephants. A large childcare center is unlikely to be able to respond to such diversity. There is just no time.  Even were there money to fund a large library there is still a problem of adult child ratio and time to talk with each little person and see what they love and answer their questions and create activities they may specially enjoy.  A large childcare center aims at a broad goal- a standardization of curriculum, of coloring activities and sheets of patterns to cut out. There is learning going on, but not necessarily fine tuned learning to tap the brilliance of each child’s little mind.

What is problematic with the federal plan is that the activities will tend to focus on one culture. There will be expressions taught that are only from one language, stories and fairy tales and rhymes and chants alluded to that are only from one culture.  And this means that what is going on at the centre, again for logistics reasons, is a standardizing of children’s culture.  The dominant culture gets its traditions taught and all other cultures will be ignored or given only token notice.   The federal plan therefore will tend to have less diversity than would a plan that encouraged and funded many care locations and styles.  Some lawyers have even questionned if this standardizing of culture might be seen to violate the rights of parents to teach their young their own language and culture.

Many immigrants want their children to learn English or French, to thrive in this culture. But over time many adults regret the loss of the maternal language that results from early teaching only in the nonmaternal tongue.. Young children can learn languages orally with some ease but writing them is difficult in any language and takes time. If we put all our immigrant cultures into one style of care and one language very young, those kids will become fluent in that dominant culture language. However they  will lose some aspects of their own. This loss is a loss to the diversity of Canada.  Were the federal plan to encourage and fund many care styles, this loss of language skills would not happen as dramatically.

The loss of cultural diversity is however not framed by this budget as a loss, but for its alleged virtue of sameness that everyone gets a chance to all have this one learning experience. The frequent repetition that the plan provides ‘inclusion’ creates the illusion that to all do the same thing is a benefit.

            -actions the government is taking in this budget to improve fairness

            and inclusion

            -to give every Canadian child the same head start

The statements that people flounder unless they get this one size fits all treatment could be seen as demeaning. The assumption that people in poverty are poor at parenting and not somehow able to be good guides to the world is heavy in this federal plan.

            -better respond to the unique needs of vulnerable people

            -indigenous childcare)  strengthening high-quality,

            culturally appropriate child care guided by indigenous


            -meets the needs of indigenous families wherever they live

Here we have the state deciding what the needs of children are, and also telling them how to meet those needs. The residential school problem Canada created for decades, built on the assumption that indigenous children were without culture and needing the enlightened care of colonists to thrive, took them from the parental environment, forced them to speak and dress in nonindigenous cultural ways and robbed a people of its core rights to an identity. We now admit that was a violation of their dignity.

 We must be very careful that we do not in a hundred little ways make that same mistake again.  The federal plan promises it will provide ‘ culturally appropriate’ care and yet who decides what is apporpriate? Who decides what the needs of children are? Unless the parents are actually at the helm, deciding, we have not met that very important criterion of respect, dignity and empowerment. The funding formula itself belies that this plan does not do that. The funding bypasses parents and goes directly to the government run centre.

The funding plan, looked at closely, also bypasses electorates. The premiers have been offered funding for the care of children, but also told that they get no money unless they use if this one way, for this one style of care. Premiers of Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick have already raised concerns about the strings attached  to the money. Trying to be cognizant of what their own voters want, and the needs of diverse parenting styles not  just daycare users, premiers may want the money, but being told only one way to use it does not seem to respect diversity.

4. educational testable provable metrics

We teachers know there are benchmarks, goals to reach when we teach..  Any field of endeavour has marked out steps of learning, and this applies to math and reading and science and even logic. We know you can’t do it all at once and that you progress in small steps towards mastery of any skill. We also  have been trained to know those benchmarks, to have an understanding of how to move each child from where they are today to where they will be tomorrow. We do this with athletic skills, with printing, with even the understanding of history. And we know how to assess the stage the child is at. It is what we are trained to do.

The federal plan of ‘early learning’ by contrast has no benchmarks. It does not promise clearly any defined goals and it does not do so for the very practical reason that it is not set up to require competence in the setting of those goals or walking through them.  

For this style of care to call itself  ‘early education’ assumes only a very broad meaning for education and is as likely to be random activities with no progression of skills taguht. It is likely to use the development of a child naturally and the natural maturing of the physical body as benchmarks.  So children at the centre for much of their childhood  may enter as infants and toddlers and will at age 6 be able to walk and run. The will enter helpless and needing to be fed, but come out able to feed themselves and even know something about nutrition, They will enter not able to speak and will come out able to speak fluently in the language taught at the centre,. However all of those milestones happen in other care styles too, and many of them happen by the nature of human development. 

The childcare centre’s definition of skills that it actually uniquely teaches children, that no other care style can teach, is not itemized, for it does not exist. This alone should make us wonder why the plan only funds this one care style.

5. socialization

What childcare centres have often argued they provide as an advantage over other care styles is socialization. We are told that two major advantages of children in group care are that they have their little friends to play with and that they are learning how to function in society.

Those goals are laudable and likely true. However again the assumption those goals are only met at this one style of care is flawed.  A baby is socializing the moment it looks at the parent and feels her touch and hears her voice. The child in a home with other siblings is already socializing, learning how to take turns and share.  The child who plays with neighbor kids and playmates on playdates or at the park is already socializing. So daycares provide one way to do this but do not own the category.

When a child is learning how to get along with others, to listen politely and not interrupt, to not hit or pull hair, to be kind when someone is sad, these are very important skills to develop. But it is not clear that those skills are only learned at this one style of childcare.  The smaller the adult -child ratio, the smaller the group size, the smaller the number of children in a given room, the more likely it is that there will be time to notice each child as important and to have those sensitivity skills develop.Once you get past a certain group size the focus of the adult will tend naturally to be to teach the socialization skills of group control- line up, sit up, stand up, stay together as we walk.  Those skills will often include’ be quiet’,and much more often than in some other care situations for  a very high value is placed in large group care, on just keeping the noise level down.  This is not however a socialization skill of how to be caring to others. It is a group control skill.

When little kids feel they are being treated as cogs in a wheel, that they are not ‘special ‘in anyway and their own wishes do not matter, they tend to frustration. This suppression of the individual for the sake of the group is actually highly valued in some cultures, and for sure in some dictatorships. However in democracies attention to the individual is more highly valued. In some nations the early socialization of young children has them chanting songs to the fatherland and learning stories of revolution heroes to admire.  Such political indoctrination is most effective the younger the child is.  It is however a value system that democracies do not endorse. A state run system that does standardize learning sadly does pose the risk of such values bias, even inadvertently.

6. special needs children

When the childcare plans were first discussed as a national agreement, a few years ago, the stakeholders consulted were not the general public but the  ones who already operated such centres.  This exclusion of parental input or children’s input was itself troubling. But even within that restricted group consulted there were concerns raised about special needs children. The handicapped with physical challenges, who need aids for vision or hearing or who use wheelchairs are often not accommodated in large centres. There is no place for them and no staff training to help them and no appropriate technology. So they are excluded by default from the plan though it claims to be inclusive.

There are more than those special needs however. Many children have food allergies and or sensitivities to wool or nickel or pollen.  For those children a large childcare centre may pose them challenges health wise, inconveniences ofrsometimes real risk of illness. The plan does not accommodate them.

Many children are shy and there are those with attention deficits and those with autism.  Those needs also may not be well met in a large scale center which insists on a lock step routine for all children in that group at most points in the day.

These flaws of the plan have not been addressed , probably because they cannot be addressed logically in any affordable way.  We hear some token goal

            -the enabling accessibility fund to support child care centres as

            they improve their physical accessibility – $29.2 million  over two            years

However wheel chair ramps will not meet the needs of all those types of special needs. Just like you cannot have  a restaurant that at the same time offers all foods, or caters to all food preferences let alone all food allergies, so too it is impossible to create at all centres, accommodation for all special needs.

However parents with special needs children are already accommodating them. They are motivated and often already knowledgeable about this child’s needs and they are already at home providing an environment that recognizes those needs. This plan does not however recognize these other care options parents may have set up, in the home for  parent or grandparent, sitter, nanny, caregiver to come into the home . This plan only funds care in the childcare centre, and does not , if one reads closely, even commit to having staff specifically trained in the care of special needs children.

A small mom and pop childcare center, a neighborhood dayhome may be able to devote the extra time and attention to a special needs child but a large center usually just cannot. The federal plan however only funds the large center style,

7. the cost of the plan and economic flaws

The new plan will be costly but’ affordable’ in a formula that bears notice.
The costs to parents who use the center will be very low, at $10 a day. The current childcare expense deduction already in place will likely still also be in place  for such care, so parents out of pocket will pay very little. This make the plan appealing and we are told it is ‘affordable’.

However there are several other points to notice about the cost.

-the actual cost will be huge

-the actual cost will be borne by all taxpayers

-tax rates will likely go up to cover the bill

            -Budget 2021 proposes new investments totalling up to $30 billion

            over the next five years and $8.3 billion ongoing for early learning

            and childcare and indigenous early learning and childcare

            -a minimum of $9.2 billion per year ongoing will be invested

            in childcare up to $27.2 billion over five years..


There are a few other cost points to notice about the plan also:

-those parents who do not use the childcare centres still will have to pay tax to support them

-parents who get no funding for their care style will have to subsidize the care of those who do get government funds, so they are not only excluded from personal benefit but also penalized by a new bill

There are some other considerations to in terms of broad economics.

-the claim that the huge cost would ‘pay for itself’ is not supported by all economists
Michael Krashinsky is often cited with other economists as saying that there will be a return on investment. Some say that for every $2 spent now there will be  $7 return. However economist Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary school of public policy has found that such grandiose claims of future payout rarely come true. Many other factors intervene.

The claim that investing in kids pays off is logical since well raised kids become educated citizens who will earn and pay tax. However other care styles are as likely to educate kids well  too and to create the same educated citizens who will pay tax,.

The need of any society for children is paramount. A society would die off without children and a society with not enough children coming on board each generation slowly erodes the tax base .Over time a lower birthrate means a huge drop in revenue for government, and not only fewer workers but a crisis where governments raise taxes, try to entice people to retire later, and rush to get more adult immigrant entrepreneurs to come in and earn money and pay tax.

These short term solutions however do not adjust birth rate to fix the problem since all people even immigrants and hard working seniors do die.  The long term answer to economic viability is still to have babies.  And this plan for universal child care does not have a track record of increasing birthrate.

Quebec at one point had the lowest birth rate in North America. When it set up universal childcare that rate did not go up. People it turns out do not have children more readily just because there is a place away from the parent where they can place them .  Quebec was only able to get its birth rate up when it created its own maternity benefits plan.

Australia and Singapore also noticed the fall in birth rates in economies that make no allowance, literally, for those who take on the costs of childrearing. Those two countries set up a birth bonus. It turns out birth rate is only increased if births are valued, and funded, directly. This plan does not do that.

The new plan also does not put a top figure on costs. It makes it clear that this one style of care and its huge bill will continue in perpetuity.

            -This is a legacy investment for today’s children  who will not only

            benefit from but also inherit the system

            -making this historic commitment a lasting one

8. the focus on jobs not kids

The federal plan also claims a key benefit is in the creating  of jobs for childcare workers. This does given them a guaranteed employment and gives the government a guaranteed tax revenue from them.( and unions that represent them guaranteed union dues)  However to pay for a lot of people to take care of kids for pay rather than funding parents directly, creates what could be seen as an inefficient flow of money  You are paying someone to take care of your child so you can earn enough to pay them to take care of your child.  This circular formula is a frustration for parents who are bypassed about any other care option. 

The plan says that it is creating careers for women, both as childcare workers at the centers and in any other job because they are freed up to have that job now that their child at the childcare centre.

What the plan fails to acknowledge is that many women have paid jobs that do not fit the assumption;

-those women whose job dream is to be a childcare provider who set up their own small childcare home are not funded

-those women who have a paid career but work from home, are mompreneurs, or telecommute and do not use the centers are not funded

-those women who work for pay and hire a nanny or who have care for their children by a grandmother or sitter are not funded

-those women whose career is to be a nanny, au pair or live in caregiver are not funded

What the plan also ignores are

-parents who offshift each other earning and tending the child

-mothers who do paid work weekends or evenings only, when the dad is home with the kids

-mothers who take the child to paid work such as driving a school bus or in a mom and pop grocery store

-mothers at home full time because the other parent is on foreign assignment, in the military or in a profession that has a lot of travel. In the absence of one parent they may feel they are therefore crucial to the child’s sense of stability so that both parents are not gone at the same time.

-mothers or fathers with paid work hours on evening shifts where the childcare plan does not have hours they need anyway

-mothers or fathers who live rurally and find it illogical to drive great distances daily to another town for childcare


-mothers at home full time by preference and who are so committed to being with their child they endure  living near the poverty level to do so

-fathers at home

In other words this ‘inclusive plan’ excludes a lot of people and lifestyles they are entitled to have without penalty in a free society. By ignoring those parents it also ignores their kids, and deprives them of the vital legal principle of ‘equal benefit under the law”

9. negative outcomes of the Quebec model it wishes to imitate

We teachers want education to have positive outcomes. It is true however that children also ‘\learn’ by imitation and sometimes exposed to large groups may be getting messsages not intended. Several studies by economists Milligan and Lefebvre have found that

-there are some positive outcomes academically at Quebec childcare centres but they do not last .In just a few years those who did not attend the centres do as well on standardized tests as did those in the ‘early education’ daycare environment

-there are some negative outcomes. Kids in the daycare setting long term tend to have more behavioral problems.

Most of us teachers who have taught in the kindergartens have noticed a rather troubling trend that has been admitted in media reports in the last few years. There is more defiance by young kids, directed at each other and sometimes at the teacher. Some children are very hard to control at all, and are attention seeking nearly constantly for whatever outrageous behavior will get their peers to laugh  Their goal to focus only on amusing their friends, and completely unfazed by what the adult in the room wants has been studied by some child psychologists and  named ‘peer attachment disorder’

The failure of kids to bond with and respect an adult may come from not having had the consistent presence of an adult the child could feel would long term matter to them.
If the adult in a childcare setting changed every year, as is often the case when kids ‘graduate’ from the baby room to the toddler room to the 3- 4 year olds room, the kids have learned not to bother to bond too much with the adult at the centre. The ones whose opinion of them matters are then only their peers.

This focus only on even one child often trying to wreak mayhem in a classroom  can hinder learning for all. We teachers have noticed that those kids who try to shut down any academic goals often  have a past history of too much time in shifting care situations.  In 1980 the Senate did a study called “Child at Risk’ that studied if there is a pattern to criminal behavior and early childhood. It found that most kids turn out fine and are unlikely to enter the criminal justice system if they have had an early childhood of two things: the presence of the same caregiver for their first 3 years, and second, that that caregiver loved the child.

The federal plan does not ensure those criteria are met . It actually stands in the way of any arrangements that might try to provide them.

Canada is in the midst of a drug epidemic and there are many queries about why young adults are so restless, why they are so attracted to opioids. There are concerns about teens’ online exposure to sexual predators, or to bullying. There are concerns about the overuse of video games especially those that celebrate violence. These concerns about our young people remind us that kids even as teens still  need our attention and our love. They are not necessarily just fine on their own for long periods of time, even as teens. What their problems tell us is that we are mistaken to ignore kids. We err when we expect  a system to uniquely value them because systems do not do that well. 

Sociologist Mona Harrington has  written of the importance of the family dinner, as a time to just touch base, even for teens and parents. The federal  plan puts no value on time spent with children but only funds time parents spend away from them. In that it errs.

In that it does affect early learning, but not necessarily in a good way.

10. the nature of learning and what teachers should do to defend it

We teachers  are a vital profession in society. We have made it our career to educate and help along the next generation. In a classroom we are sometimes just taken aback by the cuteness of what a child just said, or the cleverness of what a  student said in class discussion. At an assembly hearing all those young voices sing the national anthem,we we may catch our breath realizing this is \the sound of the generation that will come after us, that will carry on after we die. And we get to see them now, and to influence them . It is a privilege a lot of adults do not get. And with this privilege comes huge responsibility.

We are advocates for what is the very best education a nation can give.  We know that a one size fits all plan in the early years is not that. And we must tell our legislators there is a better way.  It is to fund the child so the full range of care styles is open, and the educational opportunities of each  are enabled as the parents deem best.

Many may choose this daycare centre style. Some will not . Let people be different.

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