Ontario is changing the way it provides early learning programs based on a report by Charles Pascal published by the Ontario government in June 2009.
The incremental cost estimate in the report for full-day kindergarten is just shy of $1 billion annually. We disagree.
Our estimate is that the real incremental costs of full-day kindergarten in Ontario will come to between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion annually, depending on staffing arrangements. Realistically, $1.8 billion annually is the appropriate cost estimate.
Were the full vision for early learning in the Pascal report implemented— encompassing “the prenatal period through to adolescence”—the costs would easily rise to $6.1 billion dollars annually. And when parent user fees are taken into account, the costs to the taxpayer are still more than parent payments into the system.
This is not good economic policy, neither is it smart early learning policy.
Were the money that will be spent on full-day kindergarten sent directly to parents instead, it could amount to an annual sum of between $9,199 and $10,401 per child, again, depending on different staffing arrangements.
This report does not delve into the conflicting social science research on the benefits and drawbacks of early institutional care for children. It remains true that child outcomes after institutional care in the early years are disputed in the social science literature.
Uncertain outcomes for children, coupled with Ontario’s troubled economy means that Pascal’s plan provides little to no bang for many bucks spent today and a hefty deficit to pay back tomorrow.
The Pascal proposal has a hidden price tag that will impose very real costs on Ontario taxpayers. This report quantifies only those costs which can safely and accurately be assessed. There remain many areas in which cost overruns are more than likely, but they are not included in our calculations. This makes our estimates very conservative.
Ontario taxpayers deserve a transparent account of the possible cost overruns and the very real quantifiable costs of such a system.
We recommend abandoning this expensive system.
Download the full report below