Petition: Funding for Junior Kindergarten and other options for families

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184 signatures 184 online signatures
0 signatures on paper
Lead petitioner David Wasylciw
Petition target Legislative Assembly of the NWT
Start date Fri, 27 Jan 17
Closing date Tue, 28 Feb 17
Last signatories
  • Kim Snodgrass
  • Pascal Baril
  • Marie-Soleil Lacoursiere
  • Monia Hlafkenny
  • crystal alain
  • Ramona McKay
  • Grace Engen
  • Elysia Nicholls
  • Gerard Engen
  • Angela Desilets
Signature information

The petitioners ask that the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment provide flexible, real choices for parents of four year olds by ensuring that all options for our children are properly funded and that the money follows the child in whatever option we choose. Instead of cutting existing resources to provide for four year olds we ask that the Minister fully fund junior kindergarten and other options so there are no negative impacts on the rest of the NWT education system.

Background information

Junior Kindergarten is being instituted in the Northwest Territories to address low standardized test scores and provide options for families in communities with no existing programming for four year olds. The program has clear benefits including increased access for families since it is free, like every other year of school. As a play-based program there are education benefits that may improve learning in the other early years of school.

As proposed, the plan requires that school districts across the NWT cut their existing budgets after years of previous cuts in areas such as inclusive schooling. Adding another year of school without the appropriate funds will have negative impacts on the entire K-12 education system. Cutting millions of dollars from the education system will force changes such as reduced teaching staff, less choice in non-core courses for students and larger class sizes. Families are concerned that while the cost of living will be reduced for four year olds, junior kindergarten could reduce the availability of, and raise the costs of care for 0-3 year olds.

According to ECE and school boards, Junior Kindergarten students will not be included in inclusive schooling calculations that are used to determine the funding for classroom/educational assistants. This is incredibly concerning since, in addition to the funding reductions, four year olds are being added to the school system in classes larger than at existing preschool programs with the same, or less, staff and schools may not have access to sufficient classroom supports.

While junior kindergarten is an optional program, it will be free of cost to families while other options will continue to have a significant registration costs. If parents were able to choose what kind of program is best for their four year olds, be it a school-based, larger junior kindergarten program, or an ECE-licensed daycare/preschool program, it would provide real options for a family to consider. Just because four year olds aren’t required to attend a school-based program doesn’t mean there is a real choice for families. Not every four year old is ready for a large school environment and families need to be free to make that choice without facing a significant financial burden. The money that funds spaces for four year olds must follow the child.

Taking a one size fits all approach to educating and caring for four year olds in the territory is inconsistent with other government programs that acknowledge that different solutions fit different communities better than others. The challenges that families face in communities vary and so do the solutions to address those challenges. Taking community context into account means that our approach needs to be flexible. This flexibility needs to go beyond just making a program optional.

If junior kindergarten is implemented in all NWT communities it must be with full funding to school districts and flexible options for parents. Asking our schools and teachers to do more with even less money is not a recipe for success. Parents need to have the option to choose the program that best fits the needs of their child and family. It should not be up to a government Department to make this choice for them.

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