01/19/2015 12:40 EST | Updated 03/21/2015 05:59 EDT

Early childhood educators in Ontario daycares to qualify for $1/hour raise

KINGSTON, Ont. - Early childhood educators working in licensed daycares could soon see a raise of one dollar an hour.

Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the wage increase today in Kingston, Ont., saying it would help close the wage gap between early childhood educators working in full-day kindergarten programs and those in licensed daycares.

Ministry of Education officials say average salaries for those working in full-day kindergarten varies across school boards, but in licensed daycares, early childhood educators who earn less than $26 per hour can qualify for the raise.

The province budgeted $269 million over three years for the wage increase, and daycare operators will have to apply to their municipalities for funding.

Another wage increase is set for next year.

Wynne says the work of early childhood educators has not always been as valued as it should be, calling it a "huge job that requires natural talents, acquired skills and unflagging dedication and patience."