Opinion Editorial

Kindergarten idea requires resources: OUR OPINION

Alas, not even full-day, every day kindergarten in Ontario is a purely good news story.

Last week, the province announced that 900 more schools will offer the program, and that there's $245 million in funding during the next two years to build new classrooms and renovate existing ones to support the program.

But is there more money for more teachers? What about teaching assistants and school materials for full-time kindergarten?

Let's hope the province doesn't expect Ontario school boards to just find the money in their existing budgets for the new kindergarten program, or just make do with the current staffing levels.

That's like a company which introduces a number of new initiatives, but no new staff to handle them. The message is that the new work just gets added to the old work, and that employees had better get used to it.

Schools aren't businesses, however, and cannot be run like them.

This in no way diminishes the value of full-time kindergarten. Already, 600 Ontario schools offer this program for 35,000 pupils. This fall, there will be 200 more schools added to the list and 900 more will be added in the fall of 2012.

Full-day learning for children in junior and senior kindergarten makes the transition to Grade 1 easier for both the kids and their parents, say education officials.

To this point, more than 90% of parents have decided to take advantage of full-day kindergarten in Ontario, and that figure is even higher in the Simcoe County District School Board.

Seven Barrie schools in the public board are being added in 2012, with four Barrie schools in the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board joining next year too.

Full-day kindergarten, Monday to Friday, isn't for every four-and five-year-old child. For some of them, a whole day of school Monday, Wednesday and Friday one week, then Monday and Wednesday the next is enough.

That's why parents are given the choice of sending their children to kindergarten, or keeping them home.

But with the number of families with both parents holding down full-time jobs, and the cost of daycare, many moms and dads won't have much choice but to send junior to school full time.

There are those who argue, Andrea DeMeer

of course, that kindergarten isn't all that different than daycare, and that a full schedule is a poor use of taxpayers' dollars.

Children, however, have proven time and time again that they are willing and eager to learn, and at an early age. Parents are also pretty good at determining when their child is ready for more structured learning in schools, rather than just playing in daycare.

So why not have them taught by professional teachers and ECEs, or early childhood educators, at public and separate schools?

But if full-day, every day kindergarten in Ontario is going to be successful, it will need more than bricks and mortar. School boards must have the additional funding to hire more teachers and ECEs to make it work.

And this must come from the province, since school boards can no longer set the education portion of property taxes. The province took that responsibility away from them more than a decade ago.

Full-time kindergarten is a good idea, but only if it's allowed to work. That means funding for those on the front line delivering the service.

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