Opinion: Higher wages needed to solve child care shortage in BC
Written for Daily Hive by Natacha Beim, an internationally recognized leader in education, author, speaker and parenting expert. She is the founder and CEO of CEFA Early Learning Schools, established in 1998, and sits on the BC Provincial Child Care Council. An expert in the field of early education, Beim develops curriculum and training for her schools that is consistent with the latest research in brain development, child development, education, psychology and early learning.
As the cost of living becomes increasingly more expensive in Canada’s major cities, child care has become a top priority for families, particularly in BC, as they struggle to keep up with the rising cost of housing, property taxes and utilities. However, steps were taken in the right direction this week as the BC Government delivered their fiscal plan.
Child care was a top focus in Budget 2018, with a $1 billion commitment over the next three years to create affordable child care in the province.
The pledge included a new affordable child care benefit that will provide some families with up to $1,250 per month in child care cost relief, the creation of more than 22,000 new licensed child care spaces throughout the province, and funding to boost the supply of Early Childhood Educators to meet the growing demand.
The creation of new spaces is critical, as there simply aren’t enough spaces to keep up with the demand, and a growing number of women (and men) find themselves unable to return to work after having a child.
Another critical issue is the lack of Early Childhood Educators. There are already not enough early childhood educators for the spaces we currently have. Programs have shut down because they cannot be staffed. If we create 22,000 more spaces, we need an average of 4,000 more teachers for those spaces, not including the spaces that are now vacant because they cannot find early childhood educators to operate.
Although Budget 2018 includes some money to train new early childhood educators, the key is to work on the retention of the talent that is teaching our next generation. A typical Early Childhood Educator remains in the field for an average of four years. This is due, in part, to the low wages they receive for their work.
Without adequate spaces and compensation for these educators, we simply won’t be able to meet the demand needed to provide fair access to child care for families across BC.
By ensuring that Early Childhood Educators are fairly compensated, we would ensure that more of them don’t have to make the choice between supporting their families and doing what they love for a living.
These educators are doing one of the most important jobs in the country by helping to shape the minds and experiences of future generations, yet in an expensive city like Vancouver or Toronto, it can be a struggle from them to get by on the standard wage.
With the wellbeing of our teachers directly impacting the children who look to them for guidance, supporting Early Childhood Educators will help build stronger communities and enhance the futures of our youngest citizens.
With this in mind, our CEFA Early Learning Schools have committed to providing a living wage across all our 21 schools by the end of 2019. As of March 1, our teachers will receive a wage increase between 5% to 12%.
Considering their specialty education and the significance of their role in society, compensating educators well above minimum wage is imperative to keeping them engaged in the field.