The Association of Alberta Childcare Entrepreneurs (AACE) began a series of rolling closures on Tuesday, January 30th. These closures are a direct response to the current childcare crisis, created by the $10/day childcare program's insufficient funding and restrictive policies.
AACE says the decision for the rolling closures stems from the critical need to address the significant underfunding and inflexibility of the $10/day childcare program. This program, in its current state, places an unsustainable strain on the childcare industry's ability to serve Alberta families effectively.
Darlene Boyko, The Executive Director of The B Hive Daycare and Artistique Playschool and Early Learning Center in Lacombe talked about the issues with the Government program. "This program came into play two years ago right after COVID at a time where we had all reduced our fees ridiculously low. So our fees were at an all time low and the government stepped in and basically froze those fees right where they were. And then they asked childcare operators to reduce our fees by 50%. So parents were paying 50% and the other 50% became government funded.
So now on just a couple of months short notice, we had to adjust to having 50% of our revenue available. This was supposed to be an interim agreement. That interim agreement has now exceeded 2 years."
Although the funding the Government takes is given back to the daycares, Boyko explains why this is a problem. "We receive it, but it takes 45 days for us to get that funding. Essentially I'm carrying two months worth of fees, two months worth of lease payments, insurance, utilities and any of the costs associated with childcare. This is for the first 45 days and then two months worth for an additional 15 days. We cannot file for those funds for 30 days after we bill for them and then payment is another 15 days out".
Some argue that one advantage of the new program is lower fees which means greater accessibility for all families. Boyko says this will create a two-tier childcare system. "We are limited by the number of children through licensing that we can take into into a center. If we are constantly tapping into our savings to float the government, then have to start asking where does the buck stop? How long can we continue to provide high quality daycare so then accessibility becomes an issue."
She continued, "In my center I would have a room that is core services, (for the families who are fully funded by the government) and then we would offer what is called enhanced services (children would get meals and get to do more arts and crafts and they would get the higher quality childcare). I absolutely refuse. I I will close my doors before I offer two tier childcare system.
Although B Hive Daycare is a member of the AACE, Boyko said that she opted not to be involved in the roll out closures as she understands the difficulties it would cause local families if they were closed for the day. They are in full support of the Association and what is happening across Alberta.