Can you imagine the headlines if we had for-profit schools that constantly put the safety of children at risk, while still receiving public funds? What if their results were clearly worse than those of public or community schools? Would we accept that as a country?
Apparently we do this if the institutions educate our most vulnerable children – the youngest. Wednesday’s report in the Herald that child care centers run by large corporations and private equity firms are of a much lower quality than those run by community and non-profit businesses is nothing new to many of us in the industry.
What is new is its scope. The article described new research compiled in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Union of United Workers to state government departments that regulate early childhood education and care centers.
These services carry out spot checks in these centers and the centers must report any unwanted incidents to them, such as when they lock a child inside at the end of the day (yes, it does happen). Information received by the union shows that large for-profit companies put children most at risk. They are the ones who rush to comply with regulations established to keep children safe.
The most damning statistic? Make your choice. Did 74 percent of the 12,000 enforcement actions taken against centers over the past six years involve for-profit centers? Or are for-profit child care centers twice as likely to be rated as failing to meet national quality standards? Or that the big three for-profits – G8, Affinity and Busy Bees – had seven times as many centers not meeting national quality standards as the big nonprofits, Goodstart, KU and C&K.
Should our true damnation be reserved for governments that allow this to happen? It’s not like they ignore it. The NSW Department of Education approves the operation of these services and then responds when they break regulations and fail to meet quality standards. And the federal Department of Education allows them to line their pockets with the $ 10 billion in annual funding given to families to help them with the horribly high costs of child care.
Both departments know full well that the highest quality early childhood education and care providers are almost always those who are not in the industry to make money – government run services. local, small community organizations and large nonprofits. . Yet successive governments have allowed big business to grow to the point where they now provide 50 percent of all services to our youngest children.
We don’t let elementary and secondary schools get public money if they make a profit. Even our largest private schools are, at least theoretically, non-profit. But for some reason we have a whole different set of rules for our youngest children.