Five reasons why we should be funding non-profit child care over for-profit child care
- In the Canada-Ontario Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, Ontario itself committed to using federal funding “predominantly to support the creation of not-for-profit child care spaces.”
The province said it would ensure that the existing proportion of not-for-profit licensed child care spaces will be maintained at 70% or increased by the end of the agreement.
It’s important to keep in mind that the government had always stated in the plan that the majority of the investment would go to public, non-profit child care.
- The Ontario government continues to fund more for-profit centres who are only looking to profit
Ontario is one of four provinces allowed to use federal funding under the bilateral Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreements to create new for-profit spaces.
After committing to the vision of funding predominantly non-profit centres, the Ontario government has made numerous concessions to for-profit daycares, including loosening financial accountability measures such as profit caps.
For-profit centres don’t need funding from the government, especially if they’re not reporting how much they’re profiting. A 2021 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative survey of child care fees found that in almost every major city in Canada, non-profit centres have lower fees than for-profit centres. In Ontario, median fees for for-profit centres are between 8% and 40% higher than the non-profits, depending on the city.
- For-profit centres have been calling for less accountability and oversight of their spending
Private child care centre operators have been pushing hard for less controls, regulations and oversight on their spending – and they’ve been successful.
According to Gordon Cleveland, a University of Toronto emeritus associate professor of economics and child care policy researcher, for-profit operations in Ontario have successfully:
- changed regulations so that “measurement of quality in a centre” could not be used as an eligibility criterion to sign up for the $10/day program
- reworked the new Management and Funding Guidelines for 2022, essentially removing the list of eligible expenses and profit caps. This means that there are significantly less restrictions on what costs for-profit operators can claim, no limit on the profits a private centre can make.
- Research has consistently shown that the quality of care is better in non-profit centres compared to for-profit centres
Decades of research have shown that non-profit child care centres frequently produce higher quality care – which is demonstrated by lower child to staff ratios, better trained staff and more professional development opportunities for staff – than for-profit centres.
This difference in quality is largely due to the fact that non-profit centres have higher wages, better working conditions, better trained and educated staff, and lower staff to child ratios, according to a 2005 University of Toronto study.
In a 2007 study comparing non-profit and for-profit child care in Canada, researchers analyzed four Canadian datasets and found “non-profit child care centres have frequently been found to be, on average, of better quality than for-profit.”
Publicly funded non-profit child care with well-paid and trained early childhood educators, ongoing quality assurance and accountability measures all ensure high quality and equitable access to child care.
- Investing in affordable access to quality child care will benefit families and society at large
Parents, advocates, academics and all levels of government have long recognized the importance of access to affordable, high-quality child care in improving society as a whole.
In the Budget 2021, the federal government stated that their goal “is to ensure that all families have access to high-quality, affordable, and flexible early learning and child care no matter where they live,” calling child care an “essential social infrastructure.”
The benefits of universal child care are undeniable. A 2020 report by the Centre for Future Work estimates that rolling out a strong universal child care program over the coming decades would result in:
- The creation of over 200,000 jobs in regulated child care centres;
- The increase of Canadian GDP by between $63 and $107 billion;
- Generation of an additional $17 to $29 billion in tax revenues for federal and provincial governments—more than enough to cover the costs of publicly-funded universal child care
Beyond economic benefits, improving access to child care has widespread effects on the long-term health of children, including improving cognitive, communication, social skills, and general health, which can reduce government spending on health care and social support systems later on. Research shows that access to high quality child care is particularly beneficial for children from lower-income and racialized families who have less access to early childhood programs.
Additionally, investing in accessible, high-quality child care will improve gender representation in the workforce by allowing more women to join or return to work.