Funding for childcare aims to expand infant spaces and increase wages
Nova Scotia’s Secretary of Education on Friday announced $12 million in funding for the childcare sector, including money to expand the number of places for infants, further wage increases and help with inflation.
The money comes from the federal-provincial Affordable Childcare Agreement, a $600 million deal that aims to create $10 a day in childcare across the province by 2026.
The sector is undergoing “an enormous and ongoing transformation” and Friday’s announcement is intended to help with that, Education Secretary Becky Druhan said in an interview.
In addition to doubling the daily funding received by the Nursery Centers, the new money also includes a $1.50 hourly bonus for early childhood educators who hold additional certification.
“That will help identify specialization in the field and help with retention,” Druhan said.
operating costs increase
After a significant wage increase for educators was announced last fall, there should be another three percent across the board. This is in line with a recent pay rise for civil servants.
The package announced in October, which Druhan announced, linked future increases to those given to civil servants.
The centers will receive funding to cover minimum wage increases this year for entry-level and unskilled workers. All centers, family home providers and Nova Scotia’s before and after program receive one-time grants to help with increased operating costs.
Grants are calculated based on the size of a site and parent fees.
Helen Gamble, the owner and director of the Health Park Early Learning Center in Sydney, said the extra money comes at a good time.
“Oil has gone up, food has gone up,” she said.
“The electricity is rising, so it will only be…a help.”
“A sign of good faith”
Gamble, who is a member of an engagement group that communicates with the department, said there was hope in the sector that the aid would be more than a one-off grant as costs increased. However, Gamble believes that long-term sustainability could be addressed through a new funding model in the future.
Nova Scotia funded 1,145 child care places last October. Druhan said it’s too early to know how many more rooms will be created as a result of Friday’s announcement, but Gamble said she believes the money will incentivize sites to create more rooms.
“It’s more expensive than any other age group, so I think people will think, ‘We can do this with government support.'”
There was acrimony between the department and some operators during the transition process, but Gamble said she believes the government has been listening over the past year.
“I think it’s definitely a sign of good faith that they’re trying to build a trusting relationship with the industry. I think this is a positive step.”
Still, there’s work to be done, she said. There remains a “major” shortage of early childhood educators, which Gamble said could affect the department’s goal of further expanding the sector.
“Although they are being trained, it is not keeping up with demand.”
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