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Minister Puts Early Childhood Education At Risk

Minister Puts Early Childhood Education At Risk

Thursday 5 Sep 2002

The Government's ideological opposition to private early childhood educators is costing low-income parents and harming their children's first chance at education, ACT Associate Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"The Education Minister gave his friends in the kindergarten union equity funding and pay parity with primary and secondary school teachers, immediately putting every independent provider at a disadvantage. He has driven a huge wedge between the wealthy that can afford pre-school and the poor that can't.

"The entire increase in participation in early childcare in the last decade was a result of 130 percent more children enrolling in privately-run centres. Enrolments in state-owned centres actually decreased by seventeen percent. Yet Mr Mallard has legislated against private centres, which are now struggling to find and retain decent staff - who wants to work at a private provider when the kindergarten down the road will pay you as much as a high school chemistry teacher?

"To keep up, the independent providers have been forced to hike their fees and put early childhood education out of reach for more parents.

"In South Auckland, the Play and Learn Early Childhood Centre approached the Minister to ask why they were not eligible for equity funding. His response was that "private centres are only interested in making money".

"This centre has deservedly received plaudits from the Education Review Office, yet has now been forced to put up fees and lay off staff because of the Minister's desire to keep his union friends happy.

"The Minister has shown his disregard for the early childhood education sector by giving it four percent of entire education spending in the last Budget. If Mr Mallard had any commitment to an early childhood education strategy, he would get his nose out of the business of independent providers. His ideological distaste for private education is costing children of low income parents the chance of a decent start in life," Miss Coddington said.


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