Quality by Design working document:

Elements of a high quality early learning and child care system. [pdf, 8pp, 241KB]


Substantial well-directed public investment that includes…

· Financing for capital development

· Sustained financing sufficient to support ongoing program operation

· Core funding that covers the majority of program operation costs

· Financing for infrastructure and training

· Affordable parent fees

Policy research and analysis of practice show that good ELCC quality requires an adequate level of funding for operation of the program, for good facilities and equipment, for staff training, infrastructure, and an effective support infrastructure. A significant public investment is essential to provide stability for programs while keeping fees affordable for parents.

Public funding must be substantial enough to finance capital costs; to cover all or most of the cost of program operation so that if there are parent fees, they are affordable by families across the income spectrum; and to ensure adequate infrastructure and training at all levels. According to the OECD, “Only the regular funding that state investment brings is able to guarantee access and quality on a fairly equitable basis for all groups”.

In addition to the amount of public funding, policy issues arise concerning how it is used. These involve questions of efficiency, accountability and equity.

Questions that are frequently raised regarding how public funds should be spent include:

· Should public money be delivered on the demand-side so parents can purchase care for their child (subsidies, tax credits, or vouchers) or on the supply-side, providing public funds to fund the cost of operating the program?

· Should there be a user cost - a parent fee? If so, how much of the cost should be paid by parents, and should all parents pay the same fee or should fees be geared to income?

Arguments made for demand-side funding such as vouchers or fee subsidies are primarily associated with “parent choice” and with the idea that ELCC is a commodity in the marketplace. Proponents claim that parents will know best how and what kind of ELCC (if any) to purchase for their child and that this is an area in which government should not play a significant role.

Arguments made for supply- side funding - that is, funding that goes directly to programs to cover all or some of their operating costs - emphasize that ELCC is a “public good” and that this is the best way to ensure public accountability, that is, to ensure that that public ELCC funds are used for high quality ELCC. This perspective also states that provision of services is necessary if parents are to have a choice.

The OECD notes that supply-side funding provides greater stability to programs with, in return, greater control by the government over planning, size and location of services, quality levels and evaluation and data collection.


Financing early learning and child care in Canada. Discussion paper prepared for the Child Care for a Change! Conference
by Cleveland, G. & Krashinsky, M.
SOURCE: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004.

Financing ECEC services in OECD countries. Discussion paper prepared for the OECD workshop, Rotterdam
by Cleveland, G. & Krashinsky, M.
SOURCE: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2004.

Early education financing: What is useful to know?
by Bennett, J.
SOURCE: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 2004.