New Brunswick’s educational childcare services have been facing many challenges for quite some time. The COVID19 pandemic is making things even more complicated.
I am the mother of three healthy children. I am not an essential worker and have been telecommuting since the start of the pandemic. In fact, I am a student. Frankly, I am lucky and I have no complaints. I managed to get places in licensed and then designated daycare centers for my three children. They have had and still have great educators who take care of them, both physically and psycho-emotionally. I’m not writing this to complain, but to pity the educators, who are underpaid for the essential work they do; and to pity the daycare managers, who struggle to keep their qualified staff, unable to compete with a competitor as powerful as the Government of New Brunswick.
According to child care owners, interviewed in the fall of 2015 by the New Brunswick Child Care Study Commission, it is very difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff. Low wages, mediocre social benefits and a profession that is not valued by society are all obstacles to the establishment of quality services. As proof, educators in licensed educational daycare services in New Brunswick receive one of the lowest wage rates in Canada in the early childhood sector.
Also according to the owners, the quality of educational services is affected by rising operating costs, inadequate levels of public funding, problems in recruiting and retaining staff and the fragmentation of services in the licensed child care sector. A high employee turnover rate has a direct impact on the experience of continuing learning and care for children. Each of these factors has an impact on working conditions.
In short, the daycare managers are exhausted, trying by all means (offering a health plan) to retain their employees, but to no avail. They do not have the subsidies to provide them with a better salary and that is what, at the end of the day, would tip the balance. Another solution would be to increase the tariffs charged to parents, but they are already paying dearly for their right to contribute to society apart from the education of their children. The result: there is constant turnover of staff, which undermines the confidence and harmonious development of young children. Children need stable attachment figures to thrive.
Educators, trained in early childhood education at the New Brunswick Community College, sometimes leave after a few weeks to become assistants or substitutes in schools. Quickly, they realize the inequity between the size of the task and the remuneration that follows. You will tell me, a one-year course is not a lot of training. Would it deserve such a good salary? Tell me, how much is the salary of someone who cherishes your child and leads them to develop their personality, talents and full potential, Monday through Friday, 9-10 hours a day?
Also, does a person trained in early childhood education have the skills to manage a school-aged child with a specific disability or behavioral and / or learning disabilities? The answer is obviously no. So, why hire them? Why extract them from the environment for which they were trained, and then welcome them in a field for which they have no training? Because there is a lack of staff in the schools, let’s see! And in daycares? Is it the panacea perhaps?
Small and medium-sized businesses such as early childhood education services cannot compete with the salaries and benefits offered by an employer such as the Government of New Brunswick. Would the solution be to make childcare services public? Perhaps.
The fact remains that, for the time being, educators work long shifts. They have a heavy responsibility to ensure that every child is safe and can develop to their full potential. They must also plan teaching and learning activities. All this, with a derisory salary compared to the tasks and responsibilities incumbent upon them.
And finally tell me, why is a housework technician (cleaning lady), on average, paid more than a daycare educator? With all due respect for the teaching assistants and housework technicians, it is high time that we value the profession of early childhood educator and that we offer these dedicated workers the salary and benefits they deserve.
Mother and early childhood education student