The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board added its voice to a lobby calling for $10 per day child care plan in the province.
Emily Mlieczko, the executive director of the Early Childhood Educators of B.C., met with the board to discuss the plan, developed by her group, for a public system of integrated early care and learning.
It calls for $10/day child care, $7 for part-time, and no user fees for families earning less than $40,000 per year. It also asks for increased spaces for children with special needs, and $25/hour average wages for early childhood educators.
Mlieczko told the board the plan had the support of 32 local governments and 26 school boards, and a long list of organizations, including businesses and academics.
School District No. 42 became the 27th board to get behind the cause.
The plan starts by stating Canada ranks last among developed countries in supporting quality care and learning programs. B.C. has licenced child care spaces for only about 20 per cent of children, and costs are high because it is a user-pay system.
Trustee Susan Carr agreed, saying she was forced to quit her job to raise three kids. Daycare was expensive then, she said, and it’s worse now.
The plan is to make early and care and learning programs the responsibility of the education ministry, that they be publicly funded, and that every chid under five have the right to participate. Every child aged 6-12 would have the right to participate in before and after-school programs.
The financial rationale notes that it will cost government $1.5 billion per year. However, it also notes that B.C. mothers with children aged 3-15 have the lowest labour force participation in Canada. With better access to affordable child care, another 17,000 mothers could enter the workforce, they estimate. These working women would generate more tax revenue for the government, and be an asset to the workforce and B.C. businesses.
Mlieczko said the money that government invests in the program goes right back into the economy.
“Families, when they are supported in this way, spend more money in their communities,” she said.
Quebec, has a provincial child care program that serves half of the province’s children under five. It has allowed 70,000 mothers to return to the work force, generating $5.2 billion.
“The plan is based on years and years of research and evidence, so we’re sure this is the way to go,” said Mlieczko.
In addition to Quebec, her group studied similar systems in PEI, Ontario and other provinces, and abroad in England, Scotland, New Zealand and other countries.
She has also sought the endorsement of Maple Ridge city council, and expects to see the matter on a future city agenda.
“We continue to build the momentum.”