Childcare needs to be part of the B.C. education system

Kate Skye, local childcare worker and a resident of Cowichan Station; Cowichan News Leader

The Cowichan Valley School Board deserves applause for taking a stand and submitting a restoration — not balanced — budget to the provincial government.

If something isn’t working, don’t we, the people who pay the taxes, have a right to tell the government to rethink itself? We did it with the HST so we know it can be done.

I know the issues are complex and I don’t for one minute think the trustees/ task is easy.

In light of these challenging times I’m adding one more hot-button issue to the discussion — that of early care and learning.

A handful of dedicated early childhood educators are currently trying to inform the public about a made-in-B.C. plan to address the utter inequality of support that is available to families with young children.  We call it child care.

But the kicker is that “The Plan” asks for the child care portfolio in B.C. to be taken out of the Ministry for Children and Family Development and put into the Ministry of Education, for these same, already stretched-to-the-max school trustees to administer. I know it sounds crazy, but it is the only good solution we have.

Of course, the school board will need more money, a great deal more money and of course it has to come from taxes but we are at a place in B.C. where there is no other sensible choice.

Currently we all pay taxes for our province’s children to learn for 12 years of formal education, but the human brain is already 90 per cent developed by age five. So we are really missing the boat when it comes to education.

Perhaps we think young children under five don’t learn — not so. A child of four, or two or one is learning everything around them including their own and others’ emotions (big one!) and how to appropriately handle those emotions (even bigger one!), social interactions, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, morality, sense of self, early literacy, etc.

Children in B.C. are now entitled to full school day child care at the age of five. We call it kindergarten. But for parents of children under five who have to, want to, or need to, work or go to school, they are required to manoeuvre themselves through a very complex child care system that is fragile, fragmented and inequitable. It’s one that will require them to make choices based on cost, location and what is available.

We are long past the old-fashioned notion children are best kept at home until kindergarten. We need longer maternity and paternity leaves as promoted by Paul Kershaw, and we need quality, publically funded early child care and learning programs for all of our provinces’ young children, not just the lucky ones.

This isn’t about replacing families, it’s about supporting families.

Our group is on the agenda for the June 20 school board meeting where we will present a condensed version of “The Plan.”

We urge our valley citizens and our daring and bold school trustees to support us.