Hot! All-day JK/SK no ‘frill’ – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Wed Sep 08 2010

In the eyes of the opposition Conservatives at Queen’s Park, full-day kindergarten, which was launched yesterday in Ontario, is just a “frill” or a “shiny new car.” Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has suggested he would curtail implementation of the program if he becomes premier.

“When your credit card is maxed out, when you have no money in your bank account, Ontario families don’t go out and buy a shiny new car,” Hudak said of full-day kindergarten in the spring. “And this type of program spending, given the fiscal situation we’re in, is just not affordable at this point in time.”

Yesterday, when asked what he would do with full-day kindergarten if he won next year’s provincial election, Hudak said “that depends on the finances that we have at that given point in time.”

Translation: don’t count on the Conservatives to keep funding full-day kindergarten until it is fully implemented across the province. At best, they would keep what they inherited from the Liberal government but not expand it.

That would be a retrograde step. It would lock in an inequity, for all-day kindergarten will have been implemented in just 20 per cent of Ontario’s 4,000 elementary schools by the time of the 2011 election. It would also deprive thousands of school children of the head start they need in the 21st century.

What the Tories see as an unnecessary expenditure on a “shiny new car” is, in fact, an investment in our future. Other provinces and countries are spending heavily on education; Ontario cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.

There is ample evidence that many children are arriving at Grade 1 unprepared after two years of half-day kindergarten. As well as preparing them better for the later grades, full-day kindergarten is also a useful tool for identifying kids with learning disabilities so that they can receive the help they need.

This is all part of what Premier Dalton McGuinty calls a “virtuous circle:” quality education is a necessary prerequisite for a strong economy, which, in turn provides governments with the revenues needed to support spending on education.

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