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Province unveils plan to revitalize early childhood sector today

May 28, 2010

By TERESA WRIGHT
The Guardian – May 28, 2010

The province’s long-awaited plan to revitalize the early childhood sector will finally be released to the public today. The Early Years Report will reveal government’s plan to help the struggling sector and detail how $7 million dedicated to the sector in the recent provincial budget will be allocated.


Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Doug Currie has been loath to give any details about the plan before the official release of the report, but he did say the strategy would include a boost in wages for early childhood educators.
Early childhood educators, daycare operators and parents have been eagerly awaiting this strategy since last July when Kindergarten Commissioner Pat Mella’s report on the rollout of kindergarten into the public school system was released.
The move of kindergarten into schools has created a major strain on the early childhood sector. Over 100 early childhood educators (ECEs) have left P.E.I. daycare centres to take better-paying jobs in the public system as kindergarten instructors. That has left a concerning gap in licensed educators for Island daycares. Now many centres, especially those in rural P.E.I., are facing imminent closure if financial support and trained teaching staff isn’t injected into the sector soon.

But there are also parents who are concerned about children who don’t attend childcare centres. They are hoping government’s early childhood development strategy will include supports for all children on P.E.I., regardless of whether they attend daycare.
“We’re really hoping to see much more reference to a comprehensive approach to the early years,” said Jane Boyd, president of the childcare advocacy group Parents for Choice and Quality. Many parents can’t afford to put their children in licensed childcare facilities, so if the government focuses its support only on the sector of early learning operators and educators, children who attend unlicensed centres or who stay home with parents will fall through the cracks, Boyd said. “We really hope there will be components of the government’s early learning action plan that will address the needs of those children too because, let’s face it, the majority of children on P.E.I. are not in licensed childcare … there are so many young vulnerable children on P.E.I. and we remain concerned about what is the plan so that there is a comprehensive approach that reaches all children.”


Sonya Corrigan, executive director of the Early Childhood Development Association (ECDA), told The Guardian last April she hopes government’s early childhood plan will help make quality childcare more accessible for all families. “Children and families deserve to have access to early learning opportunities in all communities,” Corrigan told The Guardian when the provincial budget was released in April. “Unfortunately affordability has been a huge barrier to that as well as access to service, so we hope that as we go forward we’re going to put systems in place that will eliminate the affordability factor and increase accessibility.”

The plan will be announced at a 10 a.m. news conference at Park Royal Church in Charlottetown.

Release of Early Years Report

May 27, 2010

Parents for Choice & Quality have obtained the following information regarding the release of The Early Years Report. Child care centres began to receive invitations in the mail this morning.

May 25th, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
In my initial letter to you, I indicated that soon we would be releasing The Early Years Report and government’s plan to revitalize and refocus early learning and child care for children from birth to age 4 on Prince Edward Island. I am pleased to inform you that we have completed our work and now, I invite you to participate in one of the following opportunities to learn more about the details of this plan.

The first opportunity for information will be a press conference, which is being held on Friday, May 28th at 10:00 am at the Parkdale Sherwood Headstart, located at 11 Christie Drive, Charlottetown.

Two information sessions are planned for Saturday, May 29th. Kathleen Flanagan will be on hand to present The Early Years Report and I will also be in attendance at these sessions. Senior staff from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will also be available to answer any questions you may have as we work to refocus the early learning system on PEI.

The information sessions will be held Saturday, May 29th at the following times and locations:
8:30 – 11:00 am
Carrefour de l’Isle-Saint-Jean
5 Acadienne Drive
Charlottetown
1:00 – 3:30 pm
Loyalist Country Inn
195 Harbour Drive
Summerside

Thank you for taking the time to raise issues and make suggestions. Your contributions have been invaluable in informing and assisting government. We have attempted to consider all points of view as we developed the plan and would appreciate your participation as we move this plan forward. I look forward to seeing you on Friday at the press conference or on Saturday at one of the information sessions.

Sincerely,

Doug Currie
Minister

Note to PCQ friends

May 26, 2010

Dear PCQ Friends,

Remember two years ago when Parents for Choice and Quality was born? Parents and concerned Islanders came together to speak out about the proposed legislative changes to the Child Care Facilities Act because of limited parent consultation.

April will be on Compass tonight discussing the fact that last week, our elected Government passed Bill 47 which changed one word – “Shall” to “May”. While this little change might look like a minor housekeeping issue, it is far from it. It now allows the Child Care Facilities Board to deny a child care license even if it application meets all the criteria.

There is also an article in the Guardian today for which the President of Parents for Choice & Quality, Jane was interviewed. Jane voiced many of the concerns that we have regarding this issue.

There has been extremely limited parent consultation in regards to the Early Learning Action Plan that will be released shortly. On the outside, it looks like Government is focusing more on the needs of the sector (child care operators) and not on the needs of Island children.

Do you see Government interfering with other sectors who wish to open up a public service? Child care is funded through parent fees and until Government funds the system 100% they do not have the right to have such authority to cap or freeze child care spaces.

Imagine if Government interfered with the Restaurant Sector on PEI and created a Restaurant Licensing Board who would grant licenses. On this board were other restaurant owners who could turn down your license because they had the authority to freeze the number of restaurant seats in a geographical area. It would be a conflict of interest for other restaurant owners to be able to sit on such a board and have that authority.

Why does our Government feel that they need a Child Care Facilities Board? If an application meets the criteria (health and safety standards) then a Government staff person should have the authority to issue a license. This is how things are done in many other Canadian provinces. This board needs to be removed from this process and their energy focused directly on the best interests of children.

Stay tuned for more announcements being released by Government this week. How do you feel about this?

Jane Boyd, President
April Ennis, Vice-President
Parents for Choice and Quality Society

PCQ voices concerns in Guardian article re Bill 47

May 26, 2010
tags:

Parents upset about P.E.I. childcare law changes
BY TERESA WRIGHT
The Guardian

A group of parents is upset over changes made to the law governing childcare centres on P.E.I. – changes parents worry may limit access to new, quality daycares.
The Child Care Facilities Act was amended during the recent spring session of the legislature, which closed last week.
Only one line was changed, but the new wording has major implications for new childcare operators that want to open daycares on P.E.I.
Previously, the wording of the act did not allow the Child Care Facilities Board to refuse someone a licence for a new daycare as long as all requirements and regulations were met.
But with the changes passed earlier this week, the board now has the discretionary power to refuse to grant a licence to a new childcare operator.
The Parents for Choice and Quality, an advocacy group for parents on early childhood issues, opposed this change when it was proposed two years ago. A number of parents spoke out against it in 2008 and the wording amendment was dropped.
Now, Parents for Choice and Quality is upset the change was made this time around without any public consultation.
“They will have the ability now to refuse the issuing of licences, but what criteria will be used to determine that,” said Jane Boyd, president of Parents for Choice and Quality.
“We have significant concern about the potential this creates to freeze or cap licences, which is what this is really all about.”
Boyd and the other members of her group are now launching an awareness campaign to make parents and the public aware of the changes and to call on government to make public the criteria that will be used to determine how new daycares will be granted licences in the future.
Linda Lowther, assistant deputy minister of education and early childhood development, said the changes were not made to cap new childcare centres or licences.
She said the act was changed to allow the department to create different types and numbers of licences.
“We couldn’t do this under the old formulation,” Lowther said.
“It’s not the intent to cap, it’s the intent to have different types of licences.”
Details of just what different kinds of daycare licences will be issued in future is still a mystery, however, and will remain so until late next week. They will be announced as part of the province’s long-promised and long-awaited Early Learning Action Plan – a strategy that operators and parents hope will address the many problems and gaps in the early learning sector on P.E.I.
Lowther wouldn’t give any details about the action plan but did say it will include criteria for how the Child Care Facilities Board will decide who gets new daycare licences.
“It won’t be totally detailed but there will be enough that people will know what will be coming,” Lowther said.
But Boyd’s group still worries the changes will limit childcare choices for parents in future if new, quality childcare centres are not allowed to open while existing facilities are protected.
“The childcare system on P.E.I. is not a majority publicly-funded system, it is a system funded by parent fees. The government should not have control over who opens facilities and where and how if all safety regulations are being met,’ Boyd said.
“We’re really looking to ensure that there is an awareness that parents don’t have a voice and haven’t had a voice in these changes all along.”

Special note from Jane Boyd, President of Parents for Choice & Quality:

Re this quote:

“The childcare system on P.E.I. is not a majority publicly-funded system, it is a system funded by parent fees. The government should not have control over who opens facilities and where and how if all safety regulations are being met,’ Boyd said.

I wish to clarify this quote as I am thinking something is perhaps out of context with it. Our concern is that the Child Care Facilities Board should not be able to determine who receives licenses or where the centres are located. The ability to refuse licenses is essentially a cap on child care spaces on PEI. Of course Parents for Choice and Quality supports there being safety regulations and them being met. Ensuring that facilities comply with safety is of critical importance. We have long spoken about linking future funding to enhanced program quality levels; which includes safety issues as well.

We are looking forward to the release of the Early Learning Action Plan and hope that the criteria that the Child Care Facilities Board will use to determine who can receive a license to operate a child care centre is both open and accountable.

Bill 47 passes – giving Child Care Facilities Board power to refuse child care licenses

May 21, 2010

Government requests 30 day extension on our FOIP requests

May 21, 2010

The government has sent a written request for a 30 day extension of our recent Freedom on Information Requests. We will be appealing these extensions.

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The following Freedom of Information (FOIPP) Request was filed today with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Parents for Choice and Quality Society
Re: Early Childhood  FOIPP Request
April 19, 2010

About the information you want to access:
1. What records do you want to access?

a. Please provide a copy of the “Framework for Early Childhood Development in Prince Edward Island” report completed by Kathleen Flanagan-Rochon as per RFP #624.

b. Please provide a breakdown of the costs incurred in the development of this report (item A).

c. Please provide a copy of all submissions received for RFP #624 – “Framework for Early Childhood Development in Prince Edward Island”. If copies of submissions are not available, please provide a list of the names of the individuals/Companies and total costs outlined in each submission.

d. Please provide a list of all private and public meetings and dates they were held on. Where possible, please provide a list of attendees of the above noted meetings that were held by the consultant Kathleen Flanagan-Rochon in relation to the work completed under RFP #624.

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The following was submitted to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development today.Parents for Choice and Quality Society
Re: Autism FOIPP Request
April 16, 2010

About the information you want to access:
1. What records do you want to access?

a. Please provide a copy of the review of provincial autism services performed for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development by HRA Associates, along with the original RFP request.

b. Please provide a breakdown of the costs incurred in the development of this review (item A).

c. Please provide a copy of all correspondence (including electronic) between the Province of Prince Edward Island and HRA Associates regarding the autism services review/development of a provincial autism strategy.

d. Please provide a copy of the current autism strategy used by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and any policies flowing from the strategy document.

e. Please provide a summary of expenditures on autism services broken down by client age group (preschool, school age, adult) by the Province of Prince Edward Island for the fiscal years 2004/2005 through to 2009/2010.

Bill 47 – Letter to the Editor (The Guardian, Journal Pioneer, West Prince Graphic & Eastern Graphic)

May 21, 2010

May 19, 2010

Dear Editor,

Today Bill 47 was passed by the PEI government; just prior to the closing of the Spring legislative session. This Bill makes a simple wording change (replacing “shall” with “may”) in the Child Care Facilities Act.

“SECTION 1 amends a provision of the Child Care Facilities Act regarding the Child Care Facilities Board issuing licenses for the operation of child care facilities by referencing the application process and changing the word “shall” to the word “may”. ”

This change will now allow the Child Care Facilities Board to choose NOT to issue a child care license to an applicant who applies for licensing to operate a child care facility on the Island. The criteria for how the Board will determine such license refusals has not been made public; nor has this issue been fully discussed in any form of recent, open public consultation process that directly involved parents.  In essence, this change now gives the Board complete power to determine whom, how and where a new child care program may be developed.  It is important to note that the Board consists of a range of individuals; some of who are operators of currently licensed child care facilities.

This change to the Act will now also protect existing operators (some of which offer lower quality child care) from new programs being established in areas where high quality early learning and care options are desperately needed.  This change will also reduce program choice for families in many communities, as new programs will only be able to open if the Board chooses to license them.

For more than two years, I have been actively working with mothers, fathers, grandparents, child care centres, industry professionals and concerned citizens of PEI to prevent a change such as this from passing through the PEI Legislature.  Both choice and quality, as related to early learning and care, was seriously compromised with the passing of Bill 47.  It is indeed a sad, sad day for Prince Edward Island children and families.

I urge Islanders to contact their MLA today and discuss Bill 47 with them. Please ask your MLA these 3 questions:

•    Does Bill 47 ensure that there will be ample early learning and care choices available in all Island communities?

•    Does Bill 47 enhance early learning and care quality or entrench lower quality programs?

•    Is there not a conflict of interest for child care operators to serve on the Child Care Facilities Board; especially when the Board will now have the ability to refuse license applications for new programs?

Yours truly,

Jane Boyd
President, Parents for Choice & Quality Society (PEI)
President, Work Family & Life Consulting Ltd (BC)