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Opinion: Daycare fee hikes put Quebec's children at risk

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Author: 
Bigras, Nathalie
Publication Date: 
18 Feb 2015
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On Feb. 11, the Équipe de recherche Qualité éducative des services de garde et petite enfance (Childcare Services and Early Childhood Educational Quality Research Group) presented a report at the National Assembly Committee on Public Finance's hearings on Bill 28, and demanded that the government withdraw its proposal to increase childcare fees on a sliding scale based on family income.

The principles of universality and quality of childcare services offered to all children in Quebec are at risk.

Our analysis of the proposed legislation, in light of academic research in the field, leads us to conclude that the proposed fee increases will have negative consequences for numerous families.

First, the reform will increase the economic burden on families with young children and will force them to turn to cheaper services.

In addition, the tax-credit structure will tend to push families at certain income levels, including the lowest ones, toward commercial daycare centres, as opposed to subsidized educational daycare centres. Naturally, families with tight budgets will opt for the least expensive option.

This is disturbing, because commercial daycares offer services of significantly lower quality, a fact solidly established by research spanning decades. Ultimately, this reform will lead to diminished access to quality childcare for parents and their children.

In our report, we predict that the reform will have devastating effects on families living in precarious economic situations. Research shows that these children benefit when they attend quality childcare - in particular, with regard to their later academic achievement. So, reduced access to educational childcare centres (CPEs) for these children will have a direct impact on their development, leading to extra costs for the government over the course of their school years.

We insist that, even in periods of austerity and budget cuts, it is still possible for the government to choose to invest in children. But the government is not likely to make that choice if it does not recognize the undeniable short- and long-term value of investing in education, beginning in early childhood.

In addition to demanding the withdrawal of Bill 28's provisions on daycare fees, we also insist that the government immediately reinstate the development of childcare spots in CPEs, as outlined in the 2012 Development Plan. We also strongly suggest that the government ensure that the childcare services it finances are of high quality. Thus, we recommend continuous quality monitoring of all childcare services administered by the government, and a moratorium on development of childcare spots in commercial daycares, until the release of the results of the Grandir en Qualité (Growing Up in Quality) 2014 study, expected this year. In addition, we recommend the financial support of independent researchers in order to carry out this continuous quality monitoring.

We invite the government to create a non-partisan working group composed of experts in the field, charged with formulating recommendations to ensure that all of Quebec society benefits from a network of universal, accessible, equitable and high-quality early childhood services. When it comes to public funding, consultations and decision-making should seek out representative viewpoints.

Finally, we recommend that the government provide childcare in CPEs free of charge to all children in Quebec, because, just like public schools, not-for-profit early childhood education should be considered a right.

A debate focused exclusively on childcare funding masks the reasons Quebec's renowned childcare network was created in the first place, reasons that continue to matter today: equality of opportunity, improved school achievement and the reduction of social inequality. This bill will hamper our progress toward those goals, and contradicts the values that the government claims to support.

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Entered Date: 
25 Feb 2015
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