Premier Doug Ford isn’t guaranteeing that full-day kindergarten will continue beyond the next school year.
The program was introduced by former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and was fully rolled out in 2014. It saves families thousands of dollars a year in child care costs, but it costs the government $1.5-billion a year.
Mr. Ford’s government is conducting education consultations, including the possibility of removing class size caps for kindergarten and primary grades, and the Premier was asked on Wednesday about the future of full-day kindergarten.
“I can tell you that there’s going to be all-day kindergarten next year and we’ll sit down and you’ll hear from us in the future,” he said.
“I can assure you one thing – any decision that’s made is going to be better, it’s not going to be worse. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot of areas of education that are broken that need to be fixed.”
Mr. Ford said he just wants what is best for students, but a government document frames the current consultation as one that is required, given “the province’s current fiscal circumstances.”
The Progressive Conservative government is trying to trim a deficit they peg at $14.5-billion – although the financial accountability officer says it’s closer to $12-billion.
Currently, the kindergarten class size cap is 29 students, and the average of class sizes across any board can’t be more than 26. For the primary grades, the cap is 23 students, but at least 90 per cent of classes in any board must have 20 or fewer students.
The consultation document also says there is an average child-to-educator ratio of 13:1 in kindergarten classrooms, as most have a teacher and an early childhood educator. It asks what the implications of the two-educator model are on student outcomes, educator working conditions and value for money. The document also asks if there are other models the ministry should consider.