Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, February 08, 2010

How Administration Failed The Children

Should you be surprised that Administration people were in tears, according to the Mayor, as they wrote their Report closing down Municipal daycare?

The Mayor and Council blew it big time with their decision on Monday to close all Municipal daycare. The decision was wrong. Pure and simple. We needed to have a real debate based on accurate information. We did not get it.

What can save this now is if County Council gets nasty and demands a proper consultation. If the County Mayors are strong and united, Edgar will buckle. Heck, they should use Marion Overholt as their advocate. Edgar (aka Eddie) is afraid of her!
  • "There are no examples in Canada that suggest a positive improvement is made to the local child care system when a municipality has closed municipal child care centres...

    In summary, it is an unrealistic expectation of licensed child care operators that the City be expected to operate municipal centres like non-profit providers. These are not non-profit centres, these are municipally operated Centres. For a whole host of reasons, clearly outlined through the data collected, City child care staff perform roles and functions that many other not-for profit and for profit operators do not that are designed to fill gaps, maintain and enhance the delivery of the system overall. These include advocacy at the provincial and municipal levels, research into best practice, information sharing, training and development opportunities, networking, mentoring and coaching, etc."

That came from the City's own 2005 Report. Can we say that Administration hid the facts from us? Was it to meet some unstated agenda? You be the judge!

You really ought to read this City report back in 2005 "MUNICIPALLY FUNDED CHILDREN’S SERVICES SYSTEM REVIEW" which, as I BLOGGED before, justified the need for Municipal Daycare. I have posted it here.

It is an easy read but devastating to what Administration put forward as their excuse to close down the system.

  • Delivery of Licensed Child Care
     7 of 10 informants strongly believe that the City should continue to directly operate child care centres

    The following issues were raised as the rationale for a continued role in direct delivery:
     The City is recognized as a community leader and has been a strong role model for quality child care for the community (i.e. municipal standards of delivery exceed requirements of Day Nurseries Act)
     The majority felt that management fulfils a key role in maintaining and enhancing strong links in the early childhood field and politically necessary for system growth
     5 of 10 noted that the City should continue to access funds available to ensure directly operated centres have the necessary funds to sustain a healthy quality child care system
     Directly operated centres offer stability to the child care system and provide appropriate and fair wages for ECE professionals in the community
     Other reasons for a continued role include the Division‟s access to planning and demographic data to support planning to meet local needs and access to leading edge research and best practices in the profession, which are subsequently shared with community of providers.
     In total, 15 different reasons to substantiate a continued role in the directly delivery of licensed child care were put forward
     2 0f 10 providers did not perceive any negative impacts if the municipality were to discontinue the directly delivery of licensed child care, further suggesting that a reduction of municipal services would increase the funding available to purchase of service operators to develop additional spaces
     Alternatively, 8 of 10 respondents perceive a considerable negative impact ranging from lack of parental choice, the potential for a reduction of licensed spaces if other providers choose not to operate in some locations, the potential for diminished quality, diminished wages, less mentoring of field placements, less opportunities for integration of children with special needs, less extended hour and flexible care options, etc.

What was never dealt with by Council is why the need for such a system disappeared in so short a period of time. What changed so quickly?

Was it really that much of a shock to the Municipal daycare system that full-day JK/SK was a problem? Absolutely if you believe what our Administraion claimed.

The reality from several years ago:

  • Windsor Star

    Full-day JK-SK lauded locally

    School board officials are excited about the province moving to full-day learning for kindergarten students, but they have lots of questions and few program details.

    "It's very positive," said Joe Berthiaume, director of education for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board...

    Penny Allen, superintendent of business for the Greater Essex County District School Board, said there are two main issues: How the program is set up and how it's staffed. The province plans to phase in full-day early learning starting in 2010...

    The province appointed an advisor who will study full-day instruction options and make a recommendation to the province, probably by February 2009, said Michelle Despaults, spokeswoman for Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. "School boards currently have different models," Despaults said."

Where was Administration when this was being considered? What contingency plans did they put into effect, what conversations and consultations did they have with parents and the County over this matter since 2007? After all, the City had complete control over daycare for the entire region. Or did they rub their hands with glee knowing this gave them the perfect excuse to close down centres.

Yet all Edgar can say is

  • "All knew the decision had to be made. Deferring this would only have added to the uncertainty and caused further delay.”

However, that is not the real incompetence of Adminsitration running daycare. Their real failure was not at all mentioned in THEIR report presented to Council, not a word of it. Naturally not. Someone might ask questions and Edgar could not save his three quarters of a million dollars

How can Councillor Gignac be so smug about its calibre when she was on Council when the 2005 report came out that pointed out how poorly Administration ran the system and suggested major reforms. Why didn't she ask why Adminsitration was responsible for the failures and take it out on them, not parents and children and the over 100 people who may lose thier jobs or have to accept new positions.

Here is how the system was criticized:

  • "When Children‟s Services devolved to CMSM administration the Ministry of Community and Social Services ended the “Approved Corporations” and direct operating grants. The community advises that the City administration indicated to other licensed child care providers affected by this change that they would be required to operate according to their child care fee revenues. The effects of this announcement theoretically would have required the City operated child care centres to operate as standalone financial entities as well. As such, business plans for each Centre that control costs and maximize revenues would be in place. Each management portfolio would balance program needs and requirements with costs, revenues and/or sustainable funding. None of this has occurred because financial management has not been an integral expectation of managers and supervisors in municipal or OEYC centres. ...During the past five years this has intensified the visibility of a conflict of interest and created animosity with community agencies that have gone through a difficult transition to a revenue based agency, while the City‟s operations have not changed. In summary, despite a high level of program delivery skill, the information collected reflects that there is an absence of business and financial acumen that pre-dates the present management team and Department leadership"

Financial irresponsibility was a problem that needed to be dealt with.

There was more:

  • "Tension and conflict amongst manager positions is only intensified by the present out of date job descriptions that fail to address key aspects related to fiscal accountability...Given the lack of role clarity in manager positions, and the unacknowledged conflict of interest created by the downloading, it is understandable that conflict would emerge. Further, the leadership vacuum resulted in a lack of foresight to understand that the Division management practises needed to change and new resources were required to respond to a new management environment.

    It has already been established that the Division has significant program delivery expertise. However enhancing the Division‟s capacity for policy and planning would further support the Division‟s ability to respond to newly introduced policy initiatives and develop strategic plans for their effective and timely implementation. Developing common Divisional goals and updating job descriptions to more accurately reflect job functions as they related to financial management will greatly reduce these conflicts, likely lead to reduced municipal costs and thus improve community perception of spending patterns."

Accordingly, the Report made a number of key recommendations:

From listening to the debate and reading the Star, one would think that the issue of costs not meeting revenues was new. Nope, not true one bit

  • "The primary reason for this is municipalities and community colleges pay fair wages to early childhood educators working in the system, when comparatively, other providers do not. The majority of municipally operated centres do not recover their operating costs from the fees charged to parents including the City of Windsor child centres.

    ..information that describes the financial position of the municipally operated child care centres...clearly shows that the centres do not meet their operational costs through fees. Further, some centres have consistently low occupancy rates and have higher than average costs when compared to the average for all of the centres. The growth of the operating deficit in 2004 has been slowed through program cuts in individual centres and an increase in fees. However, the deficit in all likelihood will continue to increase in 2005 due to continuing vacancies, the 3% increase in unionized staff wages and the ending of the OMERS pension contribution holiday. To date there is no management plan to address these issues..

    The lack of business goals and financial management expectations revealed at the management level are also evident in the management of the licensed centres. Business plans for each centre are not an expectation of the Centre Supervisor; this would be a normative expectation for a non-profit or commercial provider. Clear strategic goals that the Centre Supervisors are held accountable to; such as occupancy goals have not been established. Establishing centre business plans that adhere to occupancy policies are an accepted business practice of many municipalities that directly operate child care centres. Further, licensed and operating capacities and historic levels of occupancy have not been reviewed in relation to rates charged and costs of operation to determine whether each site remains financially viable."

We seem to have forgotten something important or rather, it was never explained to us by Administration:

  • "A clear distinction between municipally operated centres and others relates to the payment of fair wages...the entire community acknowledges that the City Centres pay their staff fair wages equivalent to the importance and demands of early childhood education.

    A further distinction exists when a municipal centre considers refusing an available space to a child. This is not permissible when a child care centre also represents the elected council. Municipal centres were reported to accommodate more parents with shifting and/or irregular work schedules, more parents requiring after-hour or weekend care and more children with special needs. For all of these reasons, it is clear that municipally operated child care centres cannot operate like independent non-profit operators, as the mandate required by Council fulfils a much more comprehensive role in the delivery of services."

The whole comparison that Councillor Brister made about about 2 for 1 was a phony one that misled us as the above suggests.

  • "he said the city can purchase two daycare spots for children in the private or non-profit sector for every spot it costs city ratepayers at city-operated facilities."

It is even more reprehensible coming from him given his spouse's previous employment in daycare with the City. He should have known better.

Here are more recommendations There is more in the report and more recommendations but that is enough for now.

The question----of all of the recommendations made, over the past 5 years, how were they implemented? What results were achieved?

I think the answer is self-evident since there was not a peep in the Admin report about it! Administration failed and the lack of results hid management failure as the reason why daycare has the problems it has.

The County, parents, children and taxpayers were not well-served by this report. The real issues around Municipal daycare were not debated. Administration failures were hidden.

The result--a bad decision. The real losers: the children.

Now, what if anything, can be done about it?