De Jong commits to giving children a head start on learning

VANCOUVER – Giving children a head start on learning and helping families deal with childcare costs are the driving forces behind BC Liberal leadership candidate Mike de Jong’s commitment to bring in an expanded school-based, play centered, voluntary, all-day Kindergarten program for four-year-olds.

De Jong announced the major investment in early childhood learning would be among the first steps a BC Liberal government would take under his leadership, as he met with parents today at Sunset Childcare Society.

“Children are more likely to be successful, healthy, and make a positive contribution to our province if we can offer them strong support during early childhood as they grow and learn. By investing in kids when they are excited to learn, we are making a long-term investment in them and in the future of B.C. This will help build a more innovative society and grow our economy,” de Jong said. “An earlier start to Kindergarten also helps families with their childcare needs – something that will leave more money in the family budget.”

A new Conference Board of Canada report released last week children who receive effective early childhood education develop better cognitive abilities, and math and reading skills. These improved outcomes boost their earnings later in life. It also noted that for every $1 spent on expanding early childhood education would yield close to $6 in economic benefits.

De Jong said his government would work with school districts to identify priority neighbourhoods for the first rounds of expansion, focussing on neighbourhoods with growing populations and where parents are struggling to find child-care. An estimated population of nearly 45,000 four-year-old children in B.C. would be eligible once all districts are on board.

De Jong’s proposal would be backed with new funding for school districts to support the hiring of early childhood educators and teachers to lead the programs, as well as money for classroom space. When fully implemented, the annual cost is estimated to be between $300 million and $400 million annually, plus a one-time investment of $150 million for classroom space. Funding would also go to the post-secondary school sector to ensure enough early childhood educators and teachers are available to support the student-teacher ratios.

“As we expand early childhood programs in schools, we will also need more early childhood educators to deliver programs effectively,” de Jong said. “B.C. has some outstanding early childhood education training programs, and my government would ensure there’s appropriate funding to meet the needs of the expanded program to ensure BC post-secondary schools have the means to deliver these programs.”

The expansion of Kindergarten for four-year-olds builds on the robust network of StrongStart centres established across the province by the BC Liberal government and the implementation of all-day Kindergarten for five-year-olds in 2011-12.

The BC Liberal party will hold a leadership convention to announce the new leader on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018.

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