Protect ECE wages
This is a love letter to all Early Childhood Educators…
The past few months have been tough as our sector has advocated strongly and loudly for what we know we deserve.
What would you do if you no longer had a child care provider?
As someone working in the Early Learning and Care sector without a background in ECE (I work in an admin role for Compass Early Learning & Care), I have to say that although I have always supported the continuation of the Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant to ECEs in Ontario, I didn’t fully appreciate its importance until I spent five minutes in a toddler room.
There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the responsibility of having five infants and toddlers in your care. While visiting one of our beautiful childcare centres, I agreed to spend a few minutes out in the toddler yard while the usual Early Childhood Educator took a quick break to go to the washroom.
Let me give you a bit of background – I absolutely LOVE children. Whenever I have the opportunity to take care of a friend’s child, I jump at the chance! I love the natural curiosity, kindness, and eagerness with which toddlers approach the world, and I find it rejuvenating to spend time with them, as it brings out my best qualities too, as we explore the world together. There are many special little ones in my life, and I have even spent an overnight or two caring for children, although I don’t have any myself. Looking after one or two children is one thing, but beyond that, it becomes an incredible practice in alert awareness, mindful presence, quick reflexes, and an incredible amount of patience!
I was absolutely delighted to have this opportunity to put my passion in education and early childhood education to practice. While there is no way to convey this without experiencing it yourself, let me at least attempt to describe it for those who hadn’t considered what it might be like to be an Early Childhood Educator…
As I stood outside on the freezing cold day for what was probably less than five minutes, here is what I had to juggle. I rotated between holding and calming a fussing baby and a toddler who seemed insistent on experiencing the snow without mittens, keeping track of another baby who was dozing off in a sled, as well as managing to keep the other two toddlers safe as they exercised their independence, climbing up and down icy hills and stairs, testing their tolerance for risk, which is an important daily practice for toddlers!
To any seasoned educator, this was a calm, average day, but for me, it was the most responsibility I’ve ever felt (though I’ve worked for several organizations and have been on boards for organizations with budgets of millions of dollars)! Beyond this humbling five-minute exercise, the educator would then go on to help some with the potty, change diapers of others, serve food, clean up after lunch, keep them engaged in educational activities based on their emerging interests and needs, as well as document it all in order to share the day’s learnings with parents. ECEs are our unsung heroes!
Needless to say, by the end of my five minutes (which felt far longer) of merely keeping them safe, I knew exactly why we MUST preserve the wage enhancement grant. Registered Early Childhood Educators deserve $1 million per year each! The very least we can do is ensure they maintain a modest $2/hour top up to their wages to keep their jobs financially viable.
If ECEs lost their wage enhancement grant, many would have to find alternate employment in order to meet their basic needs. The implications on our society would be huge. What would you do if you no longer had a child care provider?
As a child care organization, we know that quality childcare means investment in staff, which is why we work hard to provide meaningful personal and professional development opportunities for our staff. We also know that one of the things that retains good staff is decent wages. As an organization, we have made the commitment to be a ‘living wage employer,’ and have done extensive market research to ensure we keep up with the cost of living in all of our service areas.
In order to meet this wage without putting the burden entirely onto parents, we rely on funding such as the Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant. If it were to disappear, the cost of keeping good staff would end up directly on the shoulders of parents, as we would not, and cannot afford to take away $2/hour from each of our staff and continue to run an organization that prides itself on offering licensed, quality child care to all of our children and families.
I invite you to sign your name to a petition calling for the Ontario Government to continue the Provincial Wage Enhancement Grant as a small action of solidarity toward the women and men who care for the next generation – arguably the most important job in the world!
Hanah Howlett McFarlane
Compass Early Learning & Care