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Making it all about the kids - Metro US

Making it all about the kids

Premier Dalton McGuinty today will announce full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds starting in 2010, based on a provincial adviser’s $1-billion plan that would see elementary schools become year-round hubs for children from birth to age 12.

It’s unlikely McGuinty will commit to the entire $1 billion annual price tag recommended by early learning adviser Charles Pascal in his report to be released at Queen’s Park today. But the premier, who will make the announcement at Etobicoke’s Holy Angels Catholic School, is expected to honour his 2007 election pledge to spend $200 million in its first year and another $300 million in 2011.

Under Pascal’s 64-page plan, one-third of Ontario school boards would begin offering a full day of learning for four- and five-year-olds — seamlessly blending kindergarten and daycare — as well as affordable after-school, March break and summer programs for older students, by the fall of 2010.

“This report is the enemy of the status quo,” Pascal said. “If it’s really all about the kids, then this is the only way to go.”

For children younger than four, Ontario’s patchwork of children’s services — everything from parenting centres to daycares — would be consolidated into one-stop Best Start Child and Family Centres, preferably located in schools. These community hubs would fall under the mandate of a new early learning division in the Education Ministry and be overseen by municipalities, which already have authority over other services for families including urban planning, recreation, libraries and public health.

The militant elementary teachers’ union is expected to balk at sharing teaching duties with early childhood educators. And some child-care operators may not want to become sucked into a large education bureaucracy.

Space — especially in Greater Toronto’s growing suburban school boards — will likely also be an issue.

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