Blog | May 12, 2011

Public Interest Alberta is very pleased to see the Edmonton Public Schools' Board supporting the public interest with this decision. PIA, with allies like CUPE, has been working to protect our childcare. The decision from the School Board comes after our Executive Director, Bill Moore-Kilgannon, had addressed the board on this issue.

Public school board rejects publicly traded daycare company’s bid to rent space

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal, May 12, 2011EDMONTON—Canada’s only publicly traded daycare company lost a bid Tuesday to rent space in Edmonton’s public schools.Public school trustees voted to change the district’s rental policy to exclude any child-care corporation that trades on the stock market. Trustees did so out of concern for local community day cares, the scale and stability of the service.Leslie Wulf, CEO of Calgary-based Edleun Inc., told the board his company was no different than the small, private operators already renting space in Edmonton public schools, “except I can raise millions on the stock market.”Wulf said he has invested $35 million in Alberta acquiring and building centres. “We are about qualityIn Edmonton public schools, about half the daycare operators are small, for-profit businesses and half are non-profit centres. The private operators pay higher rent.Edleun owns 22 centres in Alberta, including three in Edmonton, and recently bought six in British Columbia. The company hopes to expand to own 10 per cent of the country’s daycare spaces in the next six years, to company documents say.Trustee Sarah Hoffman said the district’s rental policy should exclude investor-owned care companies. Instead, the board should be an advocate for providing early child education as a public service, not a profit-making opportunity for shareholders.Trustee Catherine Ripley disagreed, saying that as a public board, school buildings must be open to all segments of the community, including corporations traded on the stock market.“There are plenty of ethical corporations and why would we not want them supporting our families?” she said. Board chairman Dave Colburn said the board should give priority to local providers.Also, the board wants to avoid the instability that can occur when major corporations go bankrupt, he said. That happened in Australia in 2008 when global corporation ABC owned 2,400 child-care centres and went bankrupt. disrupting service to thousands of families. “With small local operators, we avoid that problem,” Colburn said.Wulf assured the board that his company operates differently from ABC and would not run into the same financial problems.Wulf later said he was not surprised by the decision and has no plans to approach any other school board for rental space, even as he expands into B.C.“I don’t need the politics,” said Wulf, adding there are plenty of other opportunities to rent space.His company will soon announce plans to build daycare centres in Edmonton and has identified several sites. The company is building three “learning centres” the size of small elementary schools around Calgary.The amendment to the leasing policy will get final reading on May 26. Wulf said he has not decided whether to make another pitch at that time.

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journalspratt@edmontonjournal.com

This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on May 12, 2011. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.