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Budget Cuts Will Lead to Increased Fees For Parents

Budget Cuts Will Lead to Increased Fees For Parents, Says Early Childhood Council

16 May, 2013

Budget 2013 will push up early childhood education charges for parents, New Zealand’s largest representative body of licensed early childhood centres said today. (16 May)

Early Childhood Council CEO Peter Reynolds said there were ‘some good things’ in the Budget, ‘but there is little doubt it will force early childhood centres to increase charges for parents’.

Mr Reynolds said he supported the extra early childhood education funding for the Canterbury rebuild and the extra money targeted at children in low-income areas (the $41 million increase in ‘equity funding’).

But the complete withdrawal of Government support for centres to assist new teachers into full registration was ‘dopey’, because it was a withdrawal of money used to complete the education of new teachers. And it left the early childhood sector with no government support for professional development while the primary sector got millions.

The ‘tiny’ increase in the ‘non-salary universal subsidy’ was a ‘funding cut in disguise’, because it was ‘so tiny it would not cover inflation’, Mr Reynolds said.

It was, he said, headlined as a 2% increase in non-salary costs, but once salaries were taken into account it was ‘an absurdly low’ .69% increase in overall funding.

While some centres would consider the increase better than nothing, for others it would be ‘just another slap in the face’.

Mr Reynolds said most centres had, in the past three years, ‘lost at least tens of thousands of dollars of annual funding’ and many had lost more. And Budget 2013 would add to those losses.

The results would be increased fees for parents, ‘and more centres driven to closure’.

Mr Reynolds described the Government’s early childhood education policy since 2010 as ‘funding cuts by stealth’ which he defined as ‘deviously-engineered cuts obvious to centres, but relatively invisible to voting parents’.

And centres had ‘had a gutsful of the Government cutting by stealth, then letting centres cop the blame when parent fees were increased’.

Centres had, since 2010, repeatedly lost funding for both the training and payment teachers. And they had seen repeated falls in the real (inflation-adjusted) value of universal subsidies like 20 Hours.

As a consequence many centres had been forced to replaced qualified staff with the unqualified. Most had been forced to slash professional development for teachers. Some were deferring building maintenance. Some had cut teacher-child ratios. Many had cut non-essential services. And ‘a frightening large number’ were on the verge of closing down.

The Early Childhood Council supported the Government’s policy of getting more low-income children into early childhood education, Mr Reynolds said.  But ‘not if the money for this policy continued to be taken from existing centres’, and ‘not if the cost is a reduction in quality for most other children’.

The Early Childhood Council has more than 1000 member centres, about 30% of which are community-owned and about 70% of which are commercially owned. Its members care for tens of thousands of children from one end of New Zealand to the other.

ENDS

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