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May 12, 2011

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Edmonton school board says no to big box child care

EDMONTON—The Edmonton Public School Board has taken steps to prevent the advancement of big box day care centres on school property. The decision occurred in light of a request by the publicly traded corporation Edleun, which is based in Calgary. According to the Edmonton Journal, Edleun owns 22 centres in Alberta, including three in Edmonton, and recently bought six in British Columbia. The company reports that it hopes to expand to own 10 per cent of the country's day-care spaces in the next six years.

Earlier this week, school trustees voted 7-2 in favour of a motion to prevent the lease of space to publicly traded companies providing child care services.

Vice-Chair Sarah Hoffman, who moved the motion, called on the board to promote community-based child care centres, with an emphasis on public and not-for-profit delivery. Other considerations were support for local providers.

“Local providers have the interests of children closer to heart, while corporate providers have to keep an eye on profits – that’s their job,” said Hoffman.

CUPE National research representative Margot Young spoke to the school board and focused on the links between staffing and care. She noted that most studies show the best determinants of quality child care are the wages and benefits of staff. Young said that private providers invest about 50 per cent of revenue on staff costs, compared to 75 per cent of revenue in public and not-for-profit centres. Higher wages result in less staff turnover and greater quality for children and parents.

The Edmonton motion has passed second reading, which means trustees will vote one more time before it becomes school board policy. In B.C. there is an active discussion about this issue on Vancouver Sun reporter Janet Steffenhagen’s blog Report Card.

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