14 Sep 2011

MPs told of early education centre struggles

7:12 pm on 14 September 2011

Early childhood educators have told MPs centres are struggling to cope with funding changes and some are under threat of closure.

Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee today considered a petition asking the Government to restore subsidies it lowered in 2010.

Last year funding for early childhood education centres changed so that they were subsidised to have 80% of teachers fully qualified, instead of 100%.

Statistics show centres raised their fees by an average of 12%, to deal with the funding shortfall.

National Party MP Jo Godhead questioned early childhood teacher Haley Whittier about the changes, which focus on involving more Maori and Pacifica children.

But Ms Whittier says the changes affected those children too as their centres became mainstream services.

She says many of these centres are teetering on the edge after being hammered by the funding changes.

Ms Whittier told MPs many families are too poor to cope with fee increases.

She says such education is a human right and a public good and shouldn't be only for those who can afford it.

The New Zealand Education Institute says some centres have raised fees and cut teachers' hours, but are still in deficit and at risk of closing.