Many Manitobans with children in nursery school could soon be paying more than double the current daily fees, under a new funding arrangement implemented by the provincial government.
The province is scrapping the enhanced operating grant program, under which guardians pay $5 a day per child at 66 nursery schools in Manitoba.
It is putting in its place a single funding model for all 162 nursery schools, which will result in daily fees rising to a maximum of $10.40, starting July 1.
While nursery schools which have been under the enhanced operating grant program are criticizing the move, others who have not are celebrating.
Lori Carpenter, director of Portage Ukrainian Nursery School in Portage la Prairie, said, for about a dozen years, parents of children in her program have been paying $5 per session. The price will soon be going up.
"We faced the poverty of the regular nursery school grant for years and then enhancement came," Carpenter said Wednesday.
"Five dollars makes it very accessible for families... It would make me sad if people can’t come here because they can’t afford it."
Meanwhile, at a facility that was never part of the enhanced grant program, Karlin Mann, of Oak Street Nursery School in Winnipeg, said: "It’s great news.
"We have been straightjacketed for funding," she said. "Everything we do was based on pennies and we’ve had to make it work... We’ve been close to closing for years, and now it will help us stay open and offer opportunities to update our facility and our equipment."
Mann said the change means Oak Street will be getting a provincial grant of about $1,500 per child, versus $528 under the old program. Oak Street participants have always had to pay $10.40 per session per child, she said.
Families Minister Rochelle Squires said the government is making the change because, "Despite being labelled as a program for low-income families, there was no income-testing to ensure that these 66 enhanced grant recipients were providing service to low-income families."
"We are increasing the grant for all nursery school programs in the regular stream and creating equity in the system," she said.
"Low-income families can continue to access nursery school services through the child-care subsidy program," Squires said. "Eligibility is based on income only, and families can receive a subsidy for attendance of up to five nursery school sessions per week."
However, MLA Malaya Marcelino, the NDP’s status of women critic, said few families actually qualify for the full subsidy. "I’m just very concerned about affordability," Marcelino said. "You have to be the poorest of the poor or a single parent with multiple kids to get it all. Almost all two (-parent) families, no matter what their income is, will not qualify for it. We have to do better."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.