1 Feb 2011

Petition launched opposing early childhood cuts

9:41 pm on 1 February 2011

A teacher's union has launched a petition urging the Government to reverse the early childhood funding cuts.

The cuts, which took effect on Tuesday, do away with the two highest government funding bands which covered centres where more than 80% of teachers are qualified.

They affect nearly 2000 centres which are expected to raise fees, reduce the number of qualified teachers or find other ways to curb costs.

The NZEI launched its petition at Hillpark Kindergarten in South Auckland and planned to present it to Parliament later this year.

It said some education services will have to pass on the extra costs to parents by increasing or adding fees, resulting in fewer children getting an early childhood education.

The Kindergarten Association is urging all families to sign the petition asking the Government to reverse the funding cuts.

The association says its 700 kindergartens are losing about 13% of their budgets, meaning a reduction in quality for under five-year-olds because they can not afford to employ as many qualified staff or a fee increase.

Prime Minister John Key says there is no funding change for the majority of early childhood centres and no reason for prices to rise.

Mr Key defended the Government's record, saying it spent more on early childhood education in 2010 than in the previous year and more is spent per child than in primary or secondary school.

Labour leader Phil Goff spoke at the launch of the NZEI petition, saying the Government is being short-sighted. Labour has said that if it returns to power after this year's election it will restore the money lost to the sector over time.

Fees raised

The worst centres are those where all staff are qualified; their hourly subsidies drop by between $1.50 and $1.60 per child, depending on the child's age.

Hill Street Childcare Centre in Wellington is among those that have already raised their fees, but manager Mel Redshaw says it might have to raise prices further.

The cuts will save the Government more than $100 million a year.

Education Minister Anne Tolley says costs have trebled in the past five years, and, despite the cuts, rising demand will see the Government spend a record $1.4 billion this year on the sector.