Ontario’s full-day JK/SK “only” option divisive

Update: It has occurred to me that Premier Dalton McGuinty and his Ontario Liberals are using the same divisive strategy that the federal Liberals under Michael Ignatieff are using and what Levant is calling the “Graves Strategy.” In McGuinty’s case, he introduces a full-day JK/SK program but says “don’t worry, be happy,” parents can still choose the half-day if they want. Now, we find out that is not the case at all. In fact, before too long, the full-day JK/SK will be compulsory. If parents don’t like that they can keep their young children at home until Grade one. 

Then, this week they try to sneak in a sex education curriculum and when the Premier has to back track, he blames Christians and fundamentalists. In other words, the divide and conquer approach seems to be the Liberal way. If anyone complains, they are homophobes, anti-immigrant, anti-progressive or stay at home parents who simply don’t count. Disgusting!

Original post starts here: Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) is right to sound the alarm that once the Early Learning Program (ELP) (aka full-day JK/SK kindergarten) is implemented in Ontario public schools, parents will NOT have the choice between a half-day program and a full-day program. Rather, the choice — which isn’t really a choice for parents — will be for their child to either participate in the full-day program or remain at home until they are six years old.

So, weren’t Ontario parents told that they would be able to choose between the half and full day programs?  Here, for example, is a news report by a CBC reporter at the time of the initial announcement, as well as this column in the Globe and Mail. In both,  it was clearly spelled out that parents had a choice, suggesting to me, that the “half-day versus full-day” information must have been provided to the media in a news release or similar media backgrounder.

Yet, when MacLeod recently attempted to enrol her own child in her local school’s half-day program, she was told it would no longer be available after this year. Why?  Because apparently, once a school has switched over to the full-day program its previous half-day program is automatically cancelled — which is the situation in MacLeod’s case.

So, how does new Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky respond (h/t Jack’s Newswatch) to Ms. MacLeod’s concerns? In my view, dismissively. As the Ottawa Citizen’s Lee Greenberg writes:

“Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky added another option Monday, telling MacLeod she could keep her daughter home altogether. ‘Parents continue to have the right to choose if they want to have their children enrolled in a kindergarten program in the province of Ontario,’ she said when asked about the policy during question period. ‘In fact, the law in Ontario is that until a child is six years of age, they are not required to be enrolled in school.’”

Now, let me be clear. I am not against the ELP per se as I know perfectly well that it will benefit many families where both parents are working or where there is a single wage earner. I mean, I was a single parent myself many years ago and benefitted from an amazing child care arrangement where my children (aged 4 & 5 at the time) went to school half the day and then walked next door to the day care for the other half day.

Of course, there are also the children whose families are either new to Canada and just learning English and about our culture, as well as those from families who have fallen on difficult economic times? No doubt, a full-day program will give them the stimulation and head start they need. Believe me, I understand that.

However, what I do have a problem with is the lack of parental choice and the compulsory “all or nothing” nature of the program

Now, tell me, how progressive is that?

Endnotes: For those who are interested in more reading, here is my archive on this topic. c/p at Jack’s Newswatch.

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