By Letter to the Editor on May 21, 2021.
The Alberta Association of Early Childhood Educators has announced that May 21 is Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Day. A day to recognizing the contributions Early Childhood Educators make in our communities everyday. This recognition could not be timelier as we are now well into our second year of pandemic and ECEs continue to cope with the increased challenges associated with providing safe early learning and care during such times.
Early Childhood Educators have continued to work throughout the pandemic, and were some of the first workers called to go back to the job after the initial COVID 19 shutdown in March 2020. By April of 2020 many of these dedicated professionals, like all other essential workers, went back to work, at risk to their own personal safety.
Child care centres and their staff were asked, by the provincial government, to provide services in order to make the operation of hospitals, police, fire and ambulance, grocery stores and other essential services possible. It turns out, many essential workers have families and need child care in order to go to work. The pandemic has made obvious what child care advocates have known for decades – we all rely on someone who relies on childcare.
Despite the essential and valuable work these highly trained professionals do, they are not compensated adequately for their work, earning far less than workers in traditionally male dominated fields with similar education levels.
The current funding models are based primarily on fees and do not allow for fair compensation, or provide for continuous learning and professional development opportunities. Any addition to operating cost would have to come at an increased cost to families, many of whom are already struggling after a year of pandemic recession.
Instead of supporting the growth of early learning and child care services in our communities, instead of supporting essential workers by making child care affordable, accessible and of high quality, the Kenney government has made deep cuts to programs that were aimed at increasing access, affordability and quality, as well as taking away supports for advanced professional development opportunity for the workforce.
Added to this, the Kenney government failure to adequately fund and coordinate a sustainable, safe return to the job for the workforce in March and April of 2020.
It is time for the Kenney Government to have meaningful dialogue with the Canadian Government and negotiate, in good faith, a National Early Learning and Child Care Program that truly puts the needs of children, their families, and the Early Childhood Educators that are providing this essential and valuable service, first.
President, The Children’s House Child Care Society