The high cost and relative unavailability of safe, high-quality preschool child care are among the worst of the stresses on low- and middle-income families. Choosing not to work outside the home is rarely a viable option for single parents; likewise for both breadwinners in two-parent, low-income families and even for many middle-income families. Such parents are often left with no choice but to leave children home alone or with unlicensed caregivers. Neither over-stressed families nor latchkey children auger well for good future educational outcomes.
Ontario’s current Liberal government is acting decisively to improve those families’ chances by making high-quality licensed child care free for preschoolers between the ages of 2.5 until full day kindergarten, starting in 2020. While this $2.2 billion investment over three years sounds like a lot, every dollar invested in child care translates to a $2.50 benefit to the Ontario economy because of increases in the working hours and wages of women.
The government’s plan includes the creation of 100,000 new licensed child-care spaces over the next five years. It is also supporting the early childhood educators and program staff who deliver this care by improving compensation through a wage grid, starting in 2020. Finally, Ontario is investing $40 million to support child-care programs in First Nations communities.