One of the most prevalent struggles in the early childhood education and care field has to do with wages. Many ECEs aren’t paid enough forcing some out of the field and others to take second jobs. Still others simply struggle or rely on their partner’s wages to make ends meet. This has been an ongoing issue for decades now and yet still nothing has been done to rectify this. In fact in Ontario quite the opposite has happened: the most recent changes to provincial child care funding has eliminated the previously dedicated (and very limited) wage enhancement grant which child care providers were only able to use for staff wages. Although these centres will continue to receive operating grants, the concern is that this money will be redirected to other parts of the program because wages are not the only area of need in child care.
When we discuss the low wages in this field, there are a lot of talks about reforming the system, creating a national child care plan or unionizing all child care centres. These are ambitious goals and although I appreciate the big picture thinking, I often wonder why we don’t put more focus on smaller, more attainable steps.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see an affordable, high quality, national child care system and maybe I will in my lifetime, but it doesn’t seem likely any time soon. So, in the meantime, can’t we look at the smaller picture and make things just a little easier for ECEs and child care operators? Let’s bring back the wage enhancement grant, let’s make it available to everyone and let’s top it up so ECEs can stop picking change out of the couch cushions. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.