I am pleased to share the exciting news that full-day licensed child care will become free for preschool children from the age of two-and-a-half until they are eligible to start kindergarten, beginning in 2020. Free preschool child care will save families an estimated $17,000 per child, allow parents to go back to work when they choose and help give children the best start in life.
Ontario’s 2018 Budget outlines how our new investment of $2.2 billion over three years will expand access to affordable child care across the province, ease the financial burden families are facing in our changing economy, and deliver free licensed child care for children from the age of two-and-a-half until kindergarten, beginning in 2020.
Early learning has been demonstrated to improve a child's academic performance throughout their lives. Improved access to child care gives parents, especially women, more choice about when they return to work and will help Ontario close the gender wage gap. This historic change to the way child care is delivered in the province follows advice economist Dr. Gordon Cleveland put forward in his report Affordable For All: Making Licensed Child Care Affordable in Ontario, and is informed by an extensive in-person and online consultation process with thousands of parents, educators and child care professionals across Ontario.
Furthermore, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced an investment of more than $300 million over three years that will help children with special education needs succeed. This major funding increase will add more education workers and specialized support staff to classrooms, and eliminate the wait list to have a child's special education needs assessed. In total, Ontario will add about 2,000 new teachers and education workers, including:
• Educational assistants (EAs) to support students with exceptionally high needs;
• Specialists, including social workers, psychologists, behavioural specialists and speech language pathologists to support boards in expanding special education programs and services – ultimately benefiting all students;
• Increasing the number of guidance and other teachers in elementary schools to better prepare students for a successful transition to high school, and to help Grade 7 and 8 students take their first steps in career planning; and,
• About 400 new mental health workers over the next two years, to ensure every high school student will have access to mental health supports at school.
• Through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN), the government supports funding for classrooms, school leadership and operations, specific student-related priorities and local management by school boards. Per-pupil funding is projected to rise to $12,300 in 2018–19, up by 9.4 per cent since 2012–13.
• Ontario will provide more than $140 million over three school years so school boards can hire 450 more guidance and other teachers to help Grades 7 and 8 students start career and pathways planning and transition successfully to high school.
• As part of a historic investment in mental health care, Ontario will provide almost $200 million over four years to expand mental health awareness and education, early identification and assessment — and ensure timely referrals for students to community health services. This will fund 180 more mental health workers in secondary schools, increasing to 400 in 2019–20.
Taken together, these actions will help to address concerns around challenges and disruptions for students in the classroom, providing educators with the resources to maintain healthy, safe, structured schools and creating an environment that promotes a life-long love of learning for all children.
Making full-day child care free for families with preschool-aged children and putting more education workers and supports in our schools is part of the government's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, a higher minimum wage and better working conditions and easier access to affordable child care.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my Community Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-722-6414.
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