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Early Learning Centres Asking For Small Slice Of $926m Budget Pie

Struggling Early Childhood Education providers say a modest part of the $926 million recovery budget would help them stay open and re-invest in the children they care for.

Early learning centres were instrumental in allowing essential workers to do important mahi through lockdown and allowing parents to return to work when it was safe. With COVID-19 funding now repurposed for economic recovery, they’re saying it’s only appropriate they’re recognised on 20 May.

“We’re not the only ones desperate for a slice of this budget, but there won’t be many sectors who’ve waited over ten years for an increase,” said Early Childhood Council CEO Peter Reynolds.

“There’s no magic wand, but a small funding increase would make a huge difference.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has indicated there’s likely to be more funding for Pay Parity, to help close the wage gap between ECE centre and kindergarten teachers doing the same jobs.

With many centres going backwards fast due to rising costs, the ECC is asking for any early learning funding increase to be split at 70% for teacher wages and 30% for centres’ operational costs. An increase in the per-child rate of subsidy funding would allow centres to start catching up with kindergarten funding that’s ballooned to over 16.44% higher than what centres receive for doing the same job.

“The Ministry of Education’s data shows more centres have closed in the last 12 months than ever before. The ECC expects this to continue, with a-centre-a-week on average closing in the next year. Is this the ECE system we want? Is it the government’s plan to just shut centres down when many are under increasing stress?”

“Splitting funding is the first step towards fairness, will mean more centres are open to employ our teachers, and they can start reinvesting in neglected areas like maintenance, teaching resources and professional development for their teams,” said Mr Reynolds.

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