ELP in 900 more schools McGuinty’s gift to teachers’ unions!

Ontario has a huge $18+ BILLION dollar deficit and is now a “HAVE-NOT” province. Yet, you would never guess it given the decisions coming out of the McGuinty Liberal government. Yesterday, for example, we found out that the full-day “Early Learning Program” (ELP) for four and five-year olds that was rolled out last September in selected schools, would add another 900 schools in September 2011. I will repeat that. 

NINE HUNDRED more schools!

So, how many more early childhood and elementary school teachers do you think will  be needed to staff ELP programs in 900 more schools —  which by the way are scheduled to start exactly one month before the 2011 Ontario election? Even if there were only one extra classroom in each of those 900 schools, there would need to be at least one qualified teacher and one “Early Childhood Educator.” Meaning, we are looking at the public school boards in Ontario hiring upwards to 1800 more employees, at a very minimum!

So, if the first part of the program involved $1.5 billion, then we are likely looking at another similar amount, in spite of the many problems being experienced now. For instance:

  • We know that some communities don’t want the program; 
  • We also know that some communities are experiencing conflicts and logistics problems between existing non-profit and private day care operators and the before and after day care programs — which is why McGuinty gave up on that idea;
  • Then, there are dozens of infrastructure-related problems, such as no capital funding to build more classrooms or to increase parking spaces for the increased numbers of teachers and parents at existing schools.
  • And, of course, there really isn’t any parent choice, other than send your child for a full-day or keep them at home until they are six years old.

So, what does it all mean? Well, Premier Dalton McGuinty and the McGuinty caucus are hoping that young parents will suddenly forget how high their hydro bills are and that all the wasted money on wind farms and green energy boondoggles will be forgotten. They also likely hope that the teachers’ unions and their members will support the Liberals for all the largess they are going to receive on behalf of the Ontario taxpayer.

Well, I don’t think so! There is an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. In other words, we will not be fooled a third time.

Will the Ontario PCs and its leader Tim Hudak cancel the ELP? Not likely.  As PC MPP Jim Wilson says in this CTV article, they simply would not expand it any further.  Why would they not cancel it? First of all, because some kids in some communities will benefit from a head start.  Secondly, because no one is going to take away a program young parents have gotten used to and for the most part, like.

However, will the extension of the ELP into 900 more schools be a gift to the teachers’ unions? Absolutely!

Childcare facilities should have Carbon Monoxide detectors!

Thankfully a disaster was averted in Winnipeg the other day when brand new (only installed a week ago) Carbon Monoxide detectors went off early in the day at the Peek-A-Boo Infant Child Centre. See this news item by Carol Sanders and Adam Wazny regarding how a total of 54 children and 19 staff were saved from serious harm or even death. How? Because no one present would have known something was wrong until it was too late because the gas has no smell. The good news is that as of April 1st, 2011, the Province of Manitoba will require CO detectors, not only in home-based child care facilities, but everywhere there is a child care centre.

Now, just out of curiosity, I did a Google search to see if there were any requirements in Ontario for such detectors. Remember, Ontario now has an Early Learning Program (ELP), full-day kindergarten by another name, in hundreds of Ontario schools. As a result, wouldn’t it make sense to make sure both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in the hallways of all schools, if not at least in the areas where there is pre-school and kindergarten aged children.  

Well, I couldn’t find any such legislation for Ontario. It doesn’t mean it is not there but it was not readily available.  So, let this latest near catastrophe be a wakeup call for the rest of Canada. Something that the Ontario PCs can consider. Will it cost money? Yes, but surely savings can be realized elsewhere in order to protect our most vulnerable.

ETFO campaign for ECE a conflict of interest?

Whether the acronym is ECE, which stands for “Early Childhood Educator” or ELE “Early Learning Educator,” those individuals who are trained to teach children under the age of five are going to be the glue that holds the new Ontario early learning program (ELP) or full-day JK/SK program together.

So, it is interesting that up until the ELP was approved by the Ontario McGuinty government, ETFO went out of its way to  suggest that only teachers with elementary qualifications (ETFO’s current member group) should be in charge of the full-day JK/SK in order to facilitate the transition to regular school. 

In fact, that was the rationale  the government gave when it announced that its new full day ELP would be staff by “qualified” teachers all day long, with ECE qualified individuals providing back-up for part of the day — but always under the jurisdiction of the teacher.

So, it is puzzling now that ETFO has mounted a serious campaign to suggest they would be the best union to represent ECE staff, particularly since CUPE currently covers most, if not all, public sector childcare workers. 

In other words, I have major concerns about the same union representing both qualified elementary school teachers and ECE staff. I mean, clearly when push comes to shove, would not ETFO favour its first priority and mandate, and that is the interests of elementary school teachers? If so, there is the potential for a serious conflict of interest for those who are early childhood specialists.

Surely something for those with ECE qualifications to think about.

Endnotes:

McGuinty gov’t to approve full-day Kindergarten

Can you believe it? Half-day kindergarten is fine the way it is. Very few parents are clammering for change. Yet, the Dalton McGuinty Liberals are pressing ahead with all-day junior and senior kindergarten in spite of a $25 BILLION dollar deficit. Check out this and this (H/T Jack’s Newswatch).

And, they are pressing ahead knowing full well there is a huge fight brewing with the teachers’ unions who are demanding that only qualified teachers teach the full-day. Well, as I have written before, during my career I have taught in both teacher education and Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs and I can say unequivocally that ECE instructors are very well qualified to do what they do. Teachers can be in charge of the formal curriculum (half the day) and ECE instructors the other half — involving resting, play and social interaction.
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