A prominent St. John's business owner is putting the pressure on the Newfoundland and Labrador government to bring in full-day kindergarten.
Cathy Bennett, the owner/operator of nine St. John's-area McDonald's restaurants, used a speech on Tuesday to the St. John's Board of Trade to call for full-day junior and senior kindergarten.
"Overall, research findings favour full-day kindergarten over the half-day program that we have now," said Bennett.
"These studies suggest that full-day kindergarten is especially effective for children who are socially or educationally disadvantaged."
Bennett said it would improve child learning, especially for children who need extra help in school.
"There are also a few studies which found that children who attend full-day kindergarten are less likely to enrol in special education classes and there is not one study that I can find that demonstrates a single academic or social advantage of restricting children to a half-day kindergarten," added Bennett.
Bennett runs the Bennett Group of Companies, which has interests in energy and job recruitment. She is encouraging parents to lobby the province to make the change.
"Other jurisdictions have done it. They have figured out a way to make it happen. I think we've got a lot of smart people in government, in unions, in the community. We've got parents that are smart. We've got to figure out a way of making this a priority so we can see the benefit of it, not in 10 years but the benefit of it this September," said Bennett.
Bennett believes full-day kindergarten will help the economy by encouraging young families to live in this province.
Education minister cool to idea
Education Minister Clyde Jackman, who admitted that Bennett's comments caught him off guard, said he is not persuaded by her arguments.
He added that even if he wanted to approve full-day kindergarten, there is not enough capacity in the province's schools to accommodate the change.
"We have schools that if we were to bring this in tomorrow, it wouldn't be able to be implemented because there'd have to be spaces created in schools for some of these," Jackman told CBC News.
"I believe there's some 75 or 80 schools that wouldn't be able to accommodate it if we were to put it in place tomorrow."
Jackman also argued that Bennett's assertion that full-day kindergarten can lure young families to the province or prevent them from moving away is flawed.
"Nowhere along the way can I ever think that we'll base initiatives that we're going to put on education as being economic," he said.
"If we're going to implement some system or programs within the school system, it's got to be based on research."
The province is in the second year of a three-year program that focuses on early learning up to the age of three.
Jackman says that will be gradually extended cover children up to the age of six.