Children are an investment in our future

KRISTEN'S COMMENT: The plan not only is aimed at eliminating child poverty but also help take some of the pressure off of teachers

Council last week heard from an advocate of a plan to move early childhood education under the umbrella of the provincial government and create affordable childcare for families.

Under the plan, the B.C. ministry of education would subsidize childcare costs, and parents would be left to pay just $10 a day for full-time childcare, $7 for part-time care and daycare would be free for families with annual incomes of less than $40,000.

While some on council were supportive, not all were ready to jump head first into endorsing the plan, as several other local governments have, including our School District 72.

Having not had a lot of time to consider the initiative, council chose to hold off on making any decisions until its next council meeting.

Fair enough, but I hope council comes around and lends its support.

Something needs to be done.

Dr. Tanya Flood with Success by Six provided some alarming statistics for council in February.

One in three Campbell River children are not developmentally ready for school by the time they are supposed to enter kindergarten.

Almost 23 per cent of Campbell River children under the age of six live in poverty, compared to the provincial average of 18.5 per cent and the national average of 13 per cent.

And roughly 500 Campbell River children under the age of 17 use the food bank monthly.

Dee McPhee, who spoke to council May 11 about the $10 a day plan, said on average, daycare costs $987 per month for toddlers and $753 per month for 3-to-5-year-olds.

With the $10 a day plan, that’s a huge amount of savings – money in families’ pockets to be spent on shelter, food, clothing, and even entertainment.

It also allows those who normally may not be able to afford childcare to put their children in daycare, enter the workforce and earn a pay cheque to help support their family.

The plan not only is aimed at eliminating child poverty but also help take some of the pressure off of teachers.

Under the plan, an Early Childhood Educator would be designated to every kindergarten and Grade 1 classroom within the school system to work alongside the teacher.

The Early Childhood Educator would be assigned to the classroom early in the morning so that parents who need childcare before school starts can drop their child off at school rather than daycare.

That eliminates the transition for kids who are currently being dropped off at daycare early in the morning, and then being bussed to school.

The plan is expected to cost the province roughly $88 million a year to implement for children under three and $1.5 billion a year to expand the program to include all children under six.

Those numbers sound staggering but McPhee told council that the province is projecting a surplus in its budget this year and the extra funds could be directed toward the plan.

Advocates of the plan also argue that because more parents would be able to afford to go to work, the cost would be offset by an increase in taxes going to the province on the additional income being spent.

The province of Quebec invests $2.2 billion each year to offer universal childcare at a $7 per day rate.

In 2008, it’s estimated that both the Quebec provincial government and the federal government made $900 million over and above the additional costs incurred by paying for universal childcare.

And it induced nearly 70,000 more mothers to enter the workforce.

McPhee told council that in B.C., such a plan is estimated to return $2.54 to the economy on ever dollar spent on the $10 a day plan.

As Coun. Larry Samson so eloquently put it following McPhee’s presentation, “there is no greater asset than our children for our future and now. It’s an investment now for our future and it’s an investment for our children’s future.”

Who can argue with that?