Program will cost $1.5 billion when fully rolled out by 2015, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Toronto (13 Jan. 2010) - Approximately 600 Ontario schools will offer full-day kindergarten to about 35,000 four-and five-year-olds starting next fall.
Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the plan Tuesday despite the fact that Ontario will post a record $24.7 billion deficit this year. Liberal members of the legislature also fanned out across the province to announce the impact of the program in their local areas.
The estimated 35,000 students who will be affected in the first year of the program represent approximately 15% of elligible children across Ontario. The program will expand to 50,000 children in 2011 and to all four and-five-year-olds by 2015. The cost will reach $1.5 billion by the time the program is fully operational.
McGuinty promised full-day kindergarten during his 2007 election campaign. He is budgeting $500 million over two years to get the program going.
"Full-day learning is a key part of the government's plan to strengthen education in Ontario and create an even better-educated workforce," the official announcement said.
"It will give our youngest students an integrated day of learning, provide a stronger start for kids and make life easier for busy parents. This is the government's next step in its education plan, which has reduced class sizes, raised the graduation rate by nine percentage points and added about 100,000 students in universities and colleges."
However, the plan drew mixed reaction from opposition parties. The opposition Conservatives said the province could not afford the program while the New Democrats said the government is sending mixed messages by launching the plan when it will end funding for thousands of child care spaces across the province.
Full-day kindergarten will be optional. School does not become mandatory in Ontario until age six.
Teachers will take the lead in full-day kindergarten, but will also work with early childhood educators (ECEs) in the classroom.
Class sizes will also increase under the new program from 20 to 23 students in primary to 26 in full-day kindergarten. The government says its initial funding will be enough for two adults for every 26 children.
Once the program is fully rolled out, parents will be able to pay a fee to obtain child care before 9 a.m. and after 3:30 p.m. - staffed by early childhood educators.
About 18,000 of the more than 240,000 junior and senior kindergarten students in Ontario are already enrolled in full-day learning at a handful of francophone and Catholic schools, which fund the programs by diverting money from other sources. Ontario now offers half-day kindergarten for four-year-olds and five-year-olds.
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec offer all-day kindergarten for five-year-olds. Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec offer some programs for four-year-olds.
British Columbia is planning to offer full-day kindergarten to all of its five-year-olds by 2011, starting with at least half of its schools next September.
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List of Early Learning Schools - pdf