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Free childcare for some will cost us plenty

Free childcare for some will cost us plenty

Budget-announced plans to give some children 20 hours per week for free at community-based early childhood education services will disadvantage the many families who choose other types of providers for their children, says the Education Forum.

Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque said the plan, when it takes effect in 2007, will see many families disadvantaged by the arbitrary nature of the funding because it focuses on the organisational structure of centres rather than the quality of care or financial need of families.

“No matter how good the care and education is at the centre you choose to send your children to, if it is not a community-based centre your children will not be eligible for free care. This move represents the triumph of ideology over the public interest,” Mr LaRocque said.

“Any institution delivering quality education is working for the national good and so is providing a public service, regardless of its ownership structure,” he said.

Giving community centres funding for free care ignores the many thousands of hardworking parents who have chosen other centres for a wide range of reasons.

“The announcement is not unexpected from a minister who continually makes policy from an anti-private sector bias rather than considering the national good, but when will he learn that his plans are holding back a sector that has built a strong following through meeting the needs of everyday working parents,” Mr LaRocque said.

Mr LaRocque said the Budget’s increase in childcare subsidies through Work and Income was a very positive step and would let parents have more choice in their family’s early childhood education but its benefits would be nullified for many by the free-childcare funding going only to community-based centres.

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