Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daycare crippled to fund Oil Stock profits

No, the lead in is not a large leap of imagination!

The Edmonton Sun is clearly the best "News" Newspaper in town!


Daycare owners, Grits slam funding methods

Shortage of quality, qualified caregivers continues
By JEREMY LOOME, LEGISLATURE BUREAUJanuary 10, 2008

A decision to fund 81 separate Alberta daycare centres through grants last year proves the province made a big mistake when it eliminated operating grants a decade ago, say operators.
And according to the Opposition, the nature of those grants - which are ostensibly to ensure centres can achieve accreditation under the province's new quality standards program - is such that much of what they'll be spent on would have been covered under the old grant system.
"In many cases, when I'm talking to owners or operators, they're telling me they don't have the time or resources to wade through these grant applications again and again," said Liberal critic Weslyn Mather. "Where we're at right now is that this does not solve the ongoing operating cost issue, which is leading to such a shortage of qualified staff that some daycare centres are closing."

Operating grants were eliminated when Alberta privatized the industry in the early 1990s. Soon after, a glut of private daycares that tried to compete using bottom-line staff costs sprung up, leading to a scarcity of qualified workers.

That's led to parents complaining of shortages for years now in quality, qualified daycares, even as 60% of Alberta daycares have vacancies.

One prominent operator, who requested anonymity due to an ongoing working relationship with government, said the government's carrot-and-stick approach to quality control is unnecessary.
"This problem only exists because they allowed so many under-qualified operations in the first place," she said. "None of these operators, in my experience, have poor intentions. They're trying hard to provide good service to children. They simply can't afford to hire qualified staff on what parents can afford to pay each month."

The operator said the government seems to be "genuinely trying" to fix the industry but doesn't have the humility to simply admit deregulation was a failure and reinstate the grants.
But a spokesman for Alberta Children's Services said the grant structure - which unlike operating grants does not allow the operator to use public money for staff wages (although top-ups are part of it) or rent, among other items - is what the public has indicated it wants.
"The public has consistently told us that we should be focusing funding on increased wages for staff and for supporting middle-income families," said Cathy Ducharme "And we know that this grant structure is working, because it is opening up new spaces."

Space isn't the problem, said Mather. Quality is.
"Alberta has regulated child care for only 10% of our children and that's terrible," she said, noting more than 70% of two-parent homes feature both parents working.
"Only Newfoundland and Saskatchewan are worse. What a record for us. What a record of failure for a province as wealthy as Alberta."
http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Alberta/2008/01/10/4765202-sun.html
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