While there is more support for early education, investments and access are uneven. Spending on a full-time student in public education is relatively comparable across the country, with the exception of the territories where facility costs are high. By contrast, spending on child care varies widely, and the gap between what is spent on education and on child care is considerable. Spending per child care space also varies across the country, from a high of over $7,000 per space to under $2,000.
Access varies by jurisdiction, from approximately one out of three preschoolers regularly attending an early education program in the Prairies, to three out of four in Québec.
Another quality indicator is the wage gap between educators teaching in the public school system and those working with preschool-aged children. While a university trained teacher can be expected to earn more than a college educated ECE, the size of the differential reflects the value placed on the latter profession. Despite efforts in most jurisdictions to improve the wages of early childhood educators, the gap remains constant.
No jurisdiction requires all staff in licensed child care or preschool centres to have a post-secondary credential in ECE, but all require some qualified staff. Several provinces have adopted minimum “entry level” training requirements, which vary from 40 to 120 hours of ECE course work. While child/staff ratios are consistent across the country, the number of early childhood educators required varies widely. Working in a sector dominated by under-trained staff becomes another burden for an already over-burdened profession.
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Variations in regional funding, access and workforce qualifications suggest there is a role for the federal government in supporting equity for children and families. Nowhere is this more evident than in the dearth of data. For all its other failings on this file, the federal government had at least supported research and data collection. However, the demise of the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth and its successor, the forced extinction of the Canadian Council on Learning and the Child Care Human Resources Sector Council, and the restrictions placed on Statistics Canada are but a few recent federal actions aimed at undermining accountability to the public and stifling democratic discourse.
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