Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Full Day Kindergarten Hoopla

So my regional school districts have made their decision - they are not going to fund full day kindergarten like they have been since about 2004. I understand their decision, they just simply cannot afford it any longer. But it seems that many many people in my city do not 'get it'. They want either the City or the Province to fund it. Today I have read many comments/reactions from fellow parents that raised my eyebrows. Very few had anything to do with wanting their child to have the best start in life and enter a full day program - most were concerns about what they are going to do with their child while they are at work.

Well up until a few years ago, all the other parents had to do it that way. I have worked in daycare since 1994 and all parents had their kids in K in either the morning, afternoon, or every-other-day (MWF one week, the Tu-Th the next). We had to work around that to make sure we didnt go over our child:staff ratio and it was a bit of a nightmare, but that's what every center/dayhome had to do. For the past few years we have 'enjoyed' a more stable atmosphere of knowing exactly when each child would come, but we really missed having kindergarten-aged kids because we had none after fullday came in.

Anyway I digress,,, I've seen countless parents talk about how Sask has full day K, and how BC and Ontario will be be funding Full Day this fall. I saw parents talking about how Alberta is 'big oil' and supposed to 'have the most money' so 'why can't they fund it'. First of all, since it's tax payer dollars, they should be saying why can't WE fund it, but again, I digress.

I did not see a single mention of how Sask, Ontario, and BC have higher income tax AND sales tax - where of course Alberta has a flat rate of 10% income tax and NO sales tax. So for starters, there seems to be more avenues for tax funds to be tallied up. I seem to recall on the news a few weeks ago that Saskatchewan is raising it's liquor tax so that's some more revenue as well. But hey, who cares right? We should be able to fund it! That's what everyone says. I also did not see any mention of how much money Alberta has to hand out in 'equalization payments' compared to how much it gets back. In other words, Albertans are also helping to fund social programs in OTHER provinces while also trying to fund our own. But hey, who cares about that, we should get everything and not question where the money comes from or how much.

For comparison sake, here are some numbers:

Alberta income tax: 10% across the board
Alberta sales tax: 0%

BC income tax: ranges from 5.06% to 14.70%
BC sales tax: 7%

Ontario income tax: ranges from 5.05% to 11.16%
Ontario sales tax: 8%

Saskatchewan income tax: ranges from 11% to 15%
Sask sales tax: 5%

There are also other things to consider like the amount of tax added to fuel per province like at this LINK which shows Alberta to be second-lowest in the country for cents/liter fuel tax (although GST and HST/PST are included).

Alberta also seems to have the lowest Corporate Tax Rate which can attract more business to our province, and therefore helping us have more job opportunities. Do you think all those people from down east wanted to leave their families behind and go work in Fort McMurray several months or years straight? Or do you think they were so desperate for work, they ended up going to another province *ahem* Alberta to earn money to raise their families back home? Corporate tax rates in Alberta are 10%, compared to 12-16% in the Maritimes.

At any rate, there is a lot more to this issue than simply someone not thinking full day kindergarten is helpful. If the money isn't there, IT ISN'T THERE. End of story. But the majority of those same parents were not willing to directly fund it themselves by paying $300/month for the full day program. Instead, they want everyone else in the province to foot the bill. That really does not make sense to me at all.

PLUS we have to remember that BC and Ontario are only just starting this. Who knows where they will be in 5 years or if they will have to cut funding to other parts of the education sector in order to keep full day kindergarten afloat. Our rural school district stated in today's paper that they are holding off buying any new technology (ie computers they were planning to purchase) in order to run their kindergartens at 80% of last year's program. So - kids in older grades are not getting their new computers in order to keep the 5 year olds in an extra couple of days a week. Do you think some of THEIR parents might be upset about that? That some of the funding that their kids were supposed to get is now going to children who were being offered a half day program but wanted full day? I can see this getting nasty if people don't stop to think.

Personally I think education and health care should be the last things on the list to get cuts when the economy is struggling, but we're facing some tougher times and have to make some decisions. If 5 out of the last 50 years have been full day but the rest were half day, and that worked previously but full day is not working now, GEE what should we do??

With the equalization payments, Alberta did not used to even get a payment. I was trying to find some charts and found Alberta left off the list as receiving a payment for more years than I could count. If you google 'Alberta Equalization Payments' you get a giant list of articles to wade through but HERE is one example from a 2008 cbc article.One excerpt explaining the program: ""The federal equalization program is designed to compensate "have-not" provinces so that their residents can have the same level of services as richer provinces. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, six provinces — the four in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Manitoba — will receive more than $13.6 billion in equalization payments."" And then this one: ""The report notes that last year's change to the equalization formula from a five-province to a 10-province standard "brought Alberta into the picture and their soaring resource revenues" have driven up the base upon which equalization payments are based."" I have seen a few articles stating that Ontario received more money back than they put in, but several stating Alberta only gets back about 16% of what it has to put in... if that is true, we are giving out 80% of that money to other provinces to run THEIR programs, while our govt gets flack for not putting more money into our own. How can we when we have to send millions or billions of dollars to the 'have not' provinces each year?

Anyway it's just some food for thought. The same could be said for any social program that is going through funding problems right now - but what are you willing to sacrifice to keep them going? And does that include forcing everyone else in the province to sacrifice for your wishes as well? Maybe we should just go ahead and add sales tax, raise income tax or make it a sliding scale so those darn rich people can pay more, and raise corporate taxes, fuel and smokes and booze taxes more while we are at it - and then everyone will be happy and no one will complain :)

yeah..... right!

7 comments:

  1. I guess it's too boring to stay home and look after your kids these days. When you go to a party and say you are a housewife you might as well have leprosy.

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  2. "But the majority of those same parents were not willing to directly fund it themselves by paying $300/month for the full day program"

    I think $300/month is very reasonable to shell out for your kid for the full day program, given that the parent(s) want the full day program because they are working full time and thus making more money and should be able to afford the care.
    Here in Toronto, parents pay anywhere between $100 - 200 per WEEK.
    MariaS

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  3. I agree Maria. In my city, I work at the second cheapest daycare center. It is $630/month for full time care. We don't really do part time, but anything over 100 hours is considered full time anyway and if children are there from noon to 5 (after morning kindergarten) or from 8am to 1230 (then attending PM kinder), they are pushing the 100 hour limit and parents would have to be charged the full fee. So - that's over double the $300 they could have been paying for full day kinder.

    One big problem was for low income families. There would be no subsidy available from the city or province for a full day program, so instead of paying a mere $100/month for their current full time daycare, they would be tripling that fee for full day kinder. But --- it's their child so at the same time as understanding their worries and monetary situation, just how far is everyone else in the province supposed to go in helping them raise their child. If they are a single or low income parent, they already receive around $500 a month (at least) for CCTB, $100 for UCCB, and any other perks like GST or Alberta Working Family tax credit. They may be on welfare and get the initial $200 a year kindergarten fees waived (I've seen the applications for that in all the social care offices in town). How much more should be done? I understand the money worries, I've been down that road myself and benefits were far less when I was a single mom, compared to today.

    But not enough people wanted to pay for it, so the city boards decided to just go with one offering - half day. Many are now complaining that some wanted to pay but no longer have the option - and that shows a lack of understanding of how this all works. You cannot have one class with only 8-10 kids in it doing a full day program because that still would not cover the cost of the teacher, classroom, etc. You need to ensure a minimum AND a maximum class size and many parents do not bother to register until the last minute. There is always a mad dash... the schools have enough trouble figuring out their class sizes and how many teachers to hire and what rooms to fill as it is. Every year at my kids' elementary, things were switched around several times in the first month due to new registrations or people not showing up. So it's half days (or perhaps every other day at some schools), and that's that.

    Just to give an example of how many parents do not think to prepare - we heard about this in February (that it might be axed), but we have not had any parents call to reserve a spot 'just in case'. None. The news was announced yesterday, but still no calls. If they wait until the summer, they will be poop out of luck because we will be full and most other centers, and dayhomes. If they at least get their names on some waiting lists around town, they would have a fighting chance. We put our's up in order of calls... but no calls yet so just wait til the panic sets in in June or August. When it will be too late!

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  4. Wow- hundreds a month for daycare and for grade K.

    To me, that's a super-expensive luxury I couldn't grasp. Kinda scares me away from the idea of ever becoming a daddy. Kez, I don't even pay that much for the rent on my apartment, which is a nice big one-bedroomer in a quiet, mountain-and-forest-surrounded neighborhood (it's even nicer than the big family house I used to live in, with an even nicer neighborhood!), so you can imagine my reaction to the $600-plus-per month for the "second-cheapest" daycare.

    Imagine at these prices if daycare were socialised as the Liberals want to do. Then more and more folks will use it, costing us untold billions in tax dollars. Ditto full-day grade K.

    People want things paid for by others. That's socialism, spreading the wealth, rather Obammunistic. And we know what that sort of thing's doing to America, who's going that socialist route big-time with Obamacare, which no rational person sees as a "better" way of doing things and which they know is going to balloon the already titanic debt further as well as raising taxes, all the while eroding, over time, peoples' rights and freedoms to be in control of their own bodies and make their own choices thereabout.

    It'd start with full-day grade K and then go on to other stuff. The mob mentality will drive the socialist welfare state, with everyone believing they're entitled to taxpayer-funded this, taxpayer-funded that, eventually leading to a situation in which a virtual chainsaw will have to be taken to the state apparatus, cutting here and there, just to save the place from bankruptcy! Think Bob Rae's Ontario and then Mike the Knife coming in to restore Common Sense. Too bad Doltin' McGoofy ruined the good stuff Harris did out of necissity.

    And some wonder why the Tea Party folks are mad at the government and the selfish, entitlist "progressive" mob?

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  5. Yes it is pricey, but over $1000 a month in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver. My rent is $1100 a month on our house so I can just imagine paying almost equal that in childcare costs!

    But, there are other reasons for that too. Years ago when it was about $200 cheaper at my center, minimum wage was only $6/hr. And there were not as many heavy requirements, business utilities were lower, etc. Because Alberta centers HAVE to be registered and approved by the govt, and the regulations have become more oppressive (aka costly), and minimum wage has increased a few times, the fee for parents has gone up along with it.

    For some simple math fun, we have 21 spaces but I will use 20 cos it's easier lol. 20 spaces at $600/month is of course $12,000 intake for the center. That is the only source of income (parent fees).

    There are 3 full time staff (including the owner) and 1 part time staff (meeeeeeeeee). To keep competitive wages going, the rate is around $12/hour each. A point to note is that is less than the starting wage at Tim Horton's and A&W for teenagers here, even though I have been at the center since 1994 and the other girls since 1999 (and the owner since 1989). But we cannot possibly make more than that without raising parent fees yet again.

    So 3 staff take home less than $2500/month, and I take home less than $1500/month for working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. Add all that up and you get $9000 a month goes to staff wages directly. Out of a $12,000 intake. Whoa. That barely leaves enough for food, utilities, operating costs, etc. There is a wage enhancement that helps us, but that comes a couple of weeks late every month, along with about $7000 in subsidy payments on behalf of parents.... so just to think about THAT for a second, my center only takes in $5000 a month from actual fee paying parents. The rest are subsidized and we don't get that payment for 6 weeks. It's really fun doing paperwork for the centers, I can tell you that much!

    Anyway it's difficult. There are still private sitters charging about $4-5 bucks an hour, where it was $2/hr when my mom did it (meaning it's still about one third of a minium wage paycheque). But how can you go lower if the carer needs to pay bills as well? It's a tough one. I'd love to do the job for less money and help parents out even more, however I would lose my own home and have to live in a box while they got to keep their too-expensive home and well that just wouldn't be fair! lol

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  6. Oh yeah and some more simple math --- most full time kids are at our center for about 180 hours/month. So a $630/month fee translates to only $3.50/hour that a parent is paying for their child to be looked after by college educated and govt approved and govt accredited people.

    As for what it could cost if everything is subsidized across the board ???!!! WEll I can't even imagine. It makes me sick to my stomach because that gives them full control over what we do in the centers. And trust me, it will be costly. Right now they are considering forcing all alberta centers to provide a daily cooked hot lunch. That will cost a bomb and most of the kids don't eat it, so it gets chucked in the garbage. We only do hot lunch once a week because of that...


    And they are also considering making all full time staff Level Two only (which means ECD). Some provinces are already like that, but we haven't been so while that means sacking thousands of staff, it also means a cost hike because ECE/D certificate staff command higher wages than Level Ones (short 40-60 hour college course). Yeah, I can see it now, the gavel coming down with a huge ton of changes that the tax payers will be forced to cover and centers will be forced to comply with above and beyond what we already do.

    If the govt is going to fund something, they want their finger in every detail. So watch out people who support the idea - you have no clue what you would be setting yourself up for. Unions are also trying to get into alberta daycares right now so watch for that as well. Soon taxpayers will also get to pay for our top of the line extended healthcare benefits, our EI contributions, CP contributions, our income tax, and our income. Have fun!

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  7. Seems that some people aren't thinking things through. They just say, "gimme, gimme".

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