Free childcare & preschool

Free childcare & preschool

Across the province, British Columbians are feeling the effects of a changing economy. In many places, the cost of living has become so high that many families are struggling to make ends meet. In other parts of the province, job growth is negative or stagnant. At the same time, employers are predicting a potential shortfall of 514,000 skilled workers over the course of the next decade.
 
We have an affordability crisis and an education gap in B.C. Due to chronic underfunding of our public education system, We need a bold plan so that British Columbians can feel secure about their futures.
 
The B.C. Greens Lifelong learning strategy focuses on the following realities:
  • The nature of work is changing. If current trends continue, Canadians can expect to hold 15 jobs throughout their careers.

  • Cost of living has increased exponentially, while incomes have not. Parents and families are feeling the squeeze and need bolder solutions so they can raise their children without the stress of paying for costly childcare.

  • Our public education system is chronically underfunded. This isn’t just tough on kids and families, it also ignores that education is the best investment society can make.

Without updating our education system now, many of us will continue to struggle to earn a stable and secure income throughout our lives.  
 
The BC Greens are offering a concrete plan to remodel our education system for the emerging economy. We will implement evidence-based solutions to ensure all British Columbians receive the educational support they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
 
Our Lifelong Learning Strategy will be accomplished through 8 components:
  1. Invest in early childhood education
  2. Invest in education for the emerging economy
  3. Provide a healthy start for school children
  4. Invest in professional development for teachers
  5. Ensure equitable access to public education
  6. Alleviate the burden of student debt
  7. Assist youth in finding employment
  8. Invest in worker skills, upgrading and retraining

Childcare and early childhood education

ECE funding will rise from $495 million in 2017/18 to $1.38 billion in 2020/21. The initial focus will be on publicly operated spaces for early childhood education/preschool for three to four year olds.

Program results
  • Individual benefits, such as higher earnings from education and better health.
  • Societal benefits, such as a more engaged citizenry, larger income tax base, lower crime rates, etc.
  • Economic and social benefits for parents, and in particular women, from being able to more easily reenter the workforce.
  • Re-establish government responsibility to adequately educate children, combat child poverty and help children overcome educational disadvantages.
Background

Early childhood education:

  • Economists, such as Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, have shown that early learning is a good investment because it forms the foundation for lifelong learning; and, that the return on spending on early childhood education is greater than spending at other levels.
  • Scientific research has demonstrated that the reason for this is that the brain develops at an astonishing rate in the earliest years, and that its ability to adapt and develop slows with age.
  • The benefits of ECE show up by age 15 in Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing where those students who have attended preschool for one year or more scored 30 points higher than those who did not, which is equivalent to an extra year of schooling.

Childcare:

  • Use of childcare is highest for families with children aged 2-4.
  • The current provincial government support for childcare is dispersed through a variety of programs and initiatives, making it fragmented and difficult for families to navigate. The B.C. Green strategy would consolidate all benefits.
  • The program would be treated as a taxable benefit, so that those on higher incomes will pay tax on the amount of the daycare benefit.
  • The program would be phased in over 4 years.
Costs
  • There are 45,000 children in each 12-month age cohort in BC for a total of 225,000 children aged 0 to 59 months.
  • The average monthly cost of childcare/ECE is $1,000/month for infants and preschool, $900/month for 2 and 3 year olds.
  • Total estimated cost at current levels of demand is $1.7 billion per year. Estimated current annual government spending including the Early Years Program, the Child Care Operating Fund and the B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit is $567 million.
  • The federal government provides over $1.0 billion in child care tax benefits for British Columbians. However, federal programs do not help those who cannot make monthly payments for daycare since the tax benefit is claimed as an ex-post refund.
  • The B.C. Green government program would be funded using a combination of existing federal and provincial program funding, plus new funding.
Program logistics
  • The program will be phased in over at least 4 years, depending on how quickly new spaces can be created. Phase-in details will be developed in conjunction with the federal government, daycare and preschool operators and parent advisors.
  • Existing privately run programs would run alongside public ECE and child care.
  • Registration will be centrally managed.
  • The program will be treated as a taxable benefit for those with incomes over $80,000.
  • The program will be constantly reviewed to address changes in demand and how to best structure delivery.
  • The goal is to have 85% of children taking part in preschool programs by 2025.

Budget implications: $4.239 billion over 4 years: $495 million in 2017/18; $1.0 billion in 18/19; $1.364 billion in 19/20; $1.38 billion in 2020/21.

Public education >>Post-secondary education >>

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