June 17, 2024 Stakeholder Telephone Town Hall - Focus on ECEs

On Monday, June 17, 2024, Minister Jones of Jobs, Economy and Trade (JET: the new Ministry overseeing child care) hosted a town hall for the early learning and child care (ELCC) sector. 

Below we have compiled some topics of interest from that meeting for Alberta early childhood educators (ECEs). 

Note: quotes are from Minister Jones and ministry staff.

Child Care Awards

Minister Jones announced the return of the Minister’s Awards of Excellence in Child Development! Nominations will open July 1, 2024.

Nine awards are available to early learning and child care professionals with 3 awards in each category:

  • Individuals – Certified early childhood educators working with children in a licensed program
  • Teams – A team of 2 to 4 certified early childhood educators working with children in a licensed program
  • Programs – A licensed child care program where certified early childhood educators work directly with children

Further information can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/ministers-awards-excellence-child-development.

“Early childhood educators have a critical role in high quality, inclusive child care. Their education, experience and compassion continue to serve as the bedrock of a successful child care program. Alberta’s government remains committed to supporting and acknowledging the important work ECEs do to shape our future generation. That's why in October, we will celebrate some of the best and brightest in our child care sector through the Minister's Awards of Excellence in Child Development. Details about the nomination process will be sent to providers and posted online soon.” 

Quality Early Learning and Child Care

Minister Jones reiterated the government’s commitment to high-quality ELCC. Some things he shared:

  • ECEs are passionate about high-quality, inclusive, and accessible child care for families and children in Alberta. 
  • Programming must be engaging, interactive, and innovative through arts, crafts, toys, and equipment.
  • Programming may vary across regions, between program types and within services (e.g., field trips, snacks, meals, hours of care, transportation, and compensation). 
  • Talking about core and enhanced programming could result in some families being unable to access child care or programming within a child care facility.
  • Staff recruitment, retention and burnout are putting pressure on the sector. 
  • Some owners/operators have innovative compensation packages to recruit and retain staff.
    • We heard this as well during our wage grid focus groups last summer.
  • ECEs need appropriate training and support as they work with children with disabilities or extra needs.

The Ministry will define what high-quality care is, and make sure every operator is providing this as a standard not a minimum.

Funding Formula Questionnaires

The government wants to hear from all stakeholders about how we can transform the early learning and child care (ELCC) sector into an integrated system that provides affordable, accessible, high-quality ELCC to children and families. They are asking for input on how funding could be allocated so that it is fair, equitable, and accountable to public funds. 

“I want to reassure all childcare providers in facilities and family day homes that we are focused on the development of a sustainable funding model, which enables you to provide high-quality child care.” 

Four new questionnaires are being sent to stakeholders and will ask about human resources, programming, facilities and administrative costs. 

The questionnaires are mandatory for providers receiving affordability grant funding and need to be completed within 3 weeks. The answers will help shape how early learning and child care is funded; therefore, the questionnaires must be completed in good faith and with accurate data. 

Please watch for the questionnaires on the following dates:

  • Facility-based programs (daycare), Monday, June 24
  • Facility-based programs (preschool), Monday, June 24
  • Family day home agencies Monday, July 8
  • Family day home educators, Monday, July 8

(At this time out-of-school care programs and ECEs employed at facility-based programs are not included)

Family Day Home Educators

“We value the frank and open discussions about the challenges of providing child care from your home and the benefits that so many Alberta families receive from this personal form of child care.”

The Ministry is aware of the concerns of operating family child care. They are looking at the following: 

  • Family Day Home (FDH) educators are being asked for their input into the funding formula. A questionnaire will be sent to you on July 8. You will have 3 weeks to complete this. 
  • Ministry staff are looking at the current funding model for FDH agencies and the contracts for more standardization. The current contracts expire in December, so watch for new contracts in January.
  • Minister Jones noted that while parent subsidies are the same for facility and home-based child care, the Affordability Grant is different as reimbursement recognizes the differences based on structural costs. 

AECEA will continue to work alongside the Alberta Family Child Care Association (AFCCA) as we transform early learning and child care in Alberta to a high-quality system that works for all educators, children, and families. 

Educator Portal

A new online portal is being developed for educators to access certification, professional development and funding. Watch for the launch of this portal in July.

The Ministry is also developing a new claims system. Details coming soon.
 

Professional Development and Workforce Funding Supports

The Ministry mentioned the three funding streams they offer to ECEs:

  1. Wage top-ups
  2. Professional development funding
  3. Release time funding
    • At the recent Building Resilience Conference hosted by the Palix Foundation, AECEA learned that this funding type is unique. Many delegates admired this initiative and the level of support provided to ECEs in Alberta and were taking this initiative back to their locations.

Further information on funding for ECEs can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-child-care-grant-funding-program

The government provides an average of $4,000 per year, per ECE for professional development and release time funding.

AECEA encourages ECEs to access this funding as it contributes to the professionalism of our sector.

Within the questionnaires being sent to programs, they will be asking about ECE compensation.
 

Wage Grid and Top-ups

Minister Jones assured a caller that the wage grid (Alberta Compensation Framework Report) was reviewed. The government wants to appropriately compensate ECEs and not penalize owners/operators for hiring ECEs with higher credentials. Because the Ministry believes in high-quality child care, they explored the use of a wage grid to ensure ECEs with Levels 2 and 3 are a part of operations.

When asked if wage enhancements would ever be offered to support staff, the Minister recognized this as a significant component of some child care programs and is asking about this in the upcoming questionnaires. 

Benefits and Pensions

When asked if the Ministry was considering a pension or benefit plan for ECEs, Minister Jones noted that funds have been invested in professional development, release time funding, and post-secondary training already. This initiative would require a deeper conversation as there are a variety of compensation structures across the province that would need to be considered.

AECEA will continue to work with Ministry staff on a workforce strategy that includes an appropriate compensation envelope within the funding model.

Summer Subsidy

Subsidy rates for school-aged children will be increased for the summer months of July and August to account for the extra care some families might need.

  • $644/month for facility-based care
  • $516/month for family care. 

AECEA continues to work alongside the School Age Care Director of Alberta (SACDA) as decisions are being made about out-of-school care.

Unplanned Temporary Closures or Evacuations

In the event of a natural disaster, and a child care program closes for up to 6 weeks because of an evacuation order or alert issued by local authorities, affordability grant payments and subsidies will not be impacted. If an owner/operator chooses to pay ECEs during a temporary closure or evacuation, the government will continue to pay wage top-ups. The Ministry will update its policies to reflect this change. 

 

AECEA remains committed to working with the Ministry on a comprehensive workforce strategy to achieve our vision where well-qualified, well-compensated early childhood educators are respected as professionals, valued for their important work, and supported in providing high-quality child care for Alberta’s children and families.

#AmplifyECEVoices