Today Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that full-day licensed child care will become free for preschool children from the age of two-and-a-half until they are eligible to start kindergarten, beginning in 2020. Free preschool child care will save families an estimated $17,000 per child, allow parents to go back to work when they choose and help give children the best start in life.
The Premier was joined today at Nelson Mandela Park Public School in Toronto by Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, and Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister of Education and Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care, to talk about how Ontario’s new investment of $2.2 billion over three years will expand access to affordable child care across the province, ease the financial burden families are facing in our changing economy, and deliver free licensed child care for children from the age of two-and-a-half until kindergarten, beginning in 2020.
Early learning has been demonstrated to improve a child’s academic performance throughout their lives. Improved access to child care gives parents, especially women, more choice about when they return to work and will help Ontario close the gender wage gap. This historic change to the way child care is delivered in the province follows advice economist Dr. Gordon Cleveland put forward in his report Affordable For All: Making Licensed Child Care Affordable in Ontario, and is informed by an extensive in-person and online consultation process with thousands of parents, educators and child care professionals across Ontario.
Making full-day child care free for families with preschool-aged children is part of the government’s plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, a higher minimum wage and better working conditions and easier access to affordable child care.
Ontario is making an overall new investment of $2.2 billion over three years in child care, which includes over $930 million in 2020-21 to make licensed preschool child care free for kids from the age of 2.5 until they are eligible for kindergarten, beginning in September 2020.
As part of the overall investment, Ontario is increasing operating funding across the child care system by an additional $162.5 million over three years to increase access to licensed child care, support fee reductions, and reduce or eliminate fee-subsidy waitlists.
This investment includes $90 million in 2018-19 to support continued expansion of child care for children ages 0 to 4 years, including $53 million to create approximately 4,200 fee subsidies and $26 million to establish base funding for home child care.
To support the expansion of quality, licensed child care, Ontario will also be introducing a wage grid for all program staff working in the early years and child care sector in April 2020 that will ensure their compensation is more closely aligned with Early Childhood Educators working in full-day kindergarten.
Ontario is dedicating $40 million over three years to support the expansion of licensed child care programs in First Nations communities. New capital funding will also be available to First Nations to support the construction or retrofit of new and existing child care facilities.
A two year, $30 million innovation fund will seek solutions to chronic issues in child care, including ways to extend child care hours to ease anxiety and stress for parents who work long hours, shifts or are in precarious work situations.
Today the government is also releasing policy recommendations received from Dr. Gordon Cleveland, Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough on child care affordability, as well as the Workforce Study for Early Years and Child Care Employees conducted by R.A. Malatest and Associates Ltd. Free child care for preschoolers is a key recommendation coming out of Dr. Cleveland’s report, and the implementation of a wage grid is a key recommendation in the Workforce Study.
Making child care more affordable and accessible was one of the key recommendations from the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee’s final report. This supports Ontario’s Strategy for Women’s Economic Empowerment that will help close the wage gap between men and women.
Since 2012–13, the number of licensed child care spaces in Ontario has grown to more than 406,000 — a 38 per cent increase.
As of September 1, 2016, licensed child care centres and home child care agencies may no longer charge parents fees to have their child placed on a wait list.