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Toronto daycares on the brink

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Author: 
Monsebraaten, Laurie
Publication Date: 
3 Nov 2011

EXCERPTS

Toronto's poorest neighbourhoods risk losing more than half of their daycare centres if Queen's Park doesn't ante up more child-care cash by 2014, when all 4- and 5-year-olds move to full-day kindergarten, a city staff report warns.

Across the city, about 400 centres - serving almost 25,000 children -are in trouble, some 2,600 subsidies may be lost and parent fees may jump by 10 per cent, says the report from the children's services division.

"The impact of (all-day kindergarten) on a system as large as Toronto's is material," says the report to be debated by the city's community development and recreation committee Friday.

"In order to effectively manage the transition, the city requires transitional, operating and capital resources from the province of Ontario, as well as legislative and regulatory amendments to the Day Nurseries Act," it says.

Toronto has been warning Queen's Park since January 2010 about the financial and operational challenges facing its 56,000-space child care system as a result of all-day kindergarten and chronic underfunding.

As centres lose 4- and 5-year-olds to the school system, they need about $27.4 million to renovate their space to serve more infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the report estimates.

But to date, the province has allocated just $2.8 million in capital funding for Toronto to accommodate the change.

....

Another $27 million annually in transitional and operating funding is needed to offset the higher costs of serving younger children. Regulatory changes are also needed to make programs more viable, the report adds.

"We need the capital immediately," Children's Services general manager Elaine Baxter-Trahair said in an interview. "The other thing we need is a new funding model. We realize that will take time, so we need to begin those discussions right away."

This is in addition to the province's annual $20 million shortfall on funding for the city's 24,000 subsidies. If that gap isn't filled by 2012, the city will be forced to cut 2,600 subsidies, she noted.

Friday's report provides a ward-by-ward analysis of a child-care system on the brink, said Jane Mercer, of the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care.

"With 20,000 children on the waiting list, we can't afford to lose any of our child care," she said. "It is absolutely imperative that the province comes forward with those dollars now," she said.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star

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Entered Date: 
4 Nov 2011
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