Former Māori Language Commission chief executive Haami Piripi says kohanga reo are losing credibility and should align themselves with early childhood education, not just language renewal.
The Kohanga Reo National Trust Board is urging the government to get back to the table and resolve treaty breaches upheld by the Waitangi Tribunal in 2012.
But Mr Piripi, who is the chairperson of Te Runanga o Te Rārawa, said he thought both parties needed to be on the same page first.
He said the infrastructure of kohanga reo was dysfunctional and kohanga were losing credibility. He said they needed to be seen as providers of early childhood education.
"It's about accountability. I guess the kohanga reo says it has its own accountability framework and it's quite happy with that. But we know the Ministry of Education framework is quite solid and has some international benchmarks built into it.
"I really can't see why the two can't converge because we are talking about the same child, with the same environment, with the same outcome, but one is in te reo Māori and one is in te reo Pākehā."
But Kohanga Reo National Trust co-chair Tina Olsen-Ratana said the focus of kohanga should remain on revitalising te reo, not early childhood education.
"It's not as simple as saying, why can't you just align? This is a successful model, and it will continue to be so.
"It's about the need for the Crown and this government to support it, which they're not doing... in various ways. They continue to prejudice kohanga. Kohanga whānau and kaiako and the parents continue to be undervalued."
At least half of the staff who work with children at a teacher-led early childhood education provider need to be qualified teachers, while kohanga are lead by whānau.
Kohanga do have their own teachers' qualifications: Te Ara Tuatahi, Te Ara Tuarua and Whakapakari Tino Rangatiratanga - none of which are formally recognised by the Education Council.
'We have our own tikanga'
The spokesperson for a kohanga collective in Mataatua Tauranga Moana, Lorraine Hale, said there was nothing wrong with the kaupapa [ethos] of kohanga.
"We don't want to be subjected to early childhood rules and tikanga [culture], we have our own tikanga and our own ture [rules] to follow. How we implement them is where we need to go, but we as kohanga reo need to be acknowledged for what we are doing."
In 2012, the Waitangi Tribunal found that imposing early childhood regulations onto kohanga reo contributed to its decline.
It is one of many treaty breaches the Kohanga Trust was trying to resolve with the Crown until late 2013, when it was put on hold due to investigations into the trust.
Ms Olsen-Ratana said it was time to continue those discussions.
"We still do not have an answer from Minister of Education Hekia Parata to a letter we sent her over a month ago asking her to come back to the table.
"We have done everything you've asked us to do, we've co-operated with your various reviews and investigations, there has been no public money at risk. Come back to the table and resolve a treaty breach"
But the collective said the trust needed to improve its board structure before it went ahead with the tribunal matters.
In a statement, Ms Parata said the trust needed to make itself accountable to the wider kohanga movement.
She said the government would not be resuming discussions on its treaty claims until it was satisfied there is an effective governance entity in place.