$1.5 billion has been in the news lately. Over time, that’s about how much it will cost in new public funds annually to build a high quality $10/day child care system for children aged 18 months to six years in BC.
What’s largely missing from the ‘we can’t afford it’ response heard from politicians is the evidence showing that $10/day child care offers immediate returns to government and business that almost cover the program cost. More importantly, $10/day child care is key to narrowing the generational spending gap - giving younger generations a chance to deal with lower incomes and rising costs without compromising the families they have, or the families they want.
I led the development of the $1.5 billion child care cost estimate, yet the work involved goes far beyond one accountant and her spreadsheets. I’d like to share the story with you, and in so doing introduce myself and my approach to the Generation Squeeze campaign.
We’ll speedwalk through my early years – working as a financial manager in the private sector, with two young children, volunteering as (guess what?) the Board Treasurer for their child care society.
Families and staff patiently explained the harsh reality – even then, there were too few spaces that cost too much for many parents, yet those same parent fees paid too little to the qualified early childhood educators caring for our children.
The solution, I was told, required much more public funding.
Not what I wanted to hear. I was raised believing that if we worked hard most of us could take care of our families. On our own, thank you very much. (I know, I know – this line of thinking conveniently forgets about the benefits we all receive from publicly funded education, health care, roads and bridges, police and fire services, etc. Point taken.)
Still, the current approach to child care – despite my best financial management efforts! - wasn’t working for children, for staff, for parents or for local employers dealing with the resulting work/life conflict. What could we do differently?
The search for creative solutions took me to the non-profit sector next, where I worked as a child care financial advisor. Over 1,000 child care budgets later, it became clear that various suggestions – more employer-supported care, more fundraising, more social enterprises – were insufficient, unrealistic or both. So in 2004 I turned my attention to the obvious question: how much would a publicly funded child care system cost?
We shared it with parents and early childhood educators, researchers and advocates, community organizations and businesses, as well as government staff and elected officials at all levels. Based on their input, we refined the model and proposed key financial indicators to monitor progress once public investment starts.
We summarized the spreadsheet-based model in diagram form, and I have since used it as a teaching tool in dozens of public presentations and early childhood education classrooms.
In 2011 Paul Kershaw and I further modified the costing model to incorporate the assumptions outlined in the child care component of the New Deal for Families, which is designed to narrow the generational spending gap by reducing the time, income and service squeeze on families with young children.
We adapted the costing model to examine parent fees more closely, recommending that families pay $10/day for full-day care, $7/day for part-day, with no fees for families earning less than $40,000 annually. BC advocates and early childhood educators subsequently incorporated our costing into their Community Plan for turning $1.5 billion in new public funds into high quality early care and learning programs for children throughout BC.
The Community Plan is supported by over 2500 individuals including parents, grandparents and early childhood educators, as well as the thousands of British Columbians represented by community organizations, municipal governments, labour groups, boards of education, academics and businesses including the Surrey Board of Trade.
So who’s behind the $10/day BC child care numbers? One community researcher/CGA/parent/advocate for children, women and families/Boomer for a Better Generational Deal . Plus a broad cross section of British Columbians.
I hope you are now, too. Join us at