Parents face dearer early childhood education fees

21:11, May 20 2010
BUDGET CUTS: The highest-quality early childhood centres have seen $449m cut from their budgets in what has been labelled a "deeply shocking" move.
BUDGET CUTS: The highest-quality early childhood centres have seen $449m cut from their budgets in what has been labelled a "deeply shocking" move.

Thousands of parents could have to pay more for early childhood education as millions of dollars are stripped from providers' budgets.

The highest-quality early childhood centres have seen $449m cut from their budgets in what has been labelled a "deeply shocking" move.

Labour says the cut will add $25 a week to the childcare bill of tens of thousands of parents. Labour leader Phil Goff said it would cancel out any gains from tax cuts.

Finance Minister Bill English announced that, from November, the higher funding rate to centres with more than 80 per cent qualified teachers would be cut. This means about 2000 centres, with 93,000 children enrolled, will lose funding. A further 2300 centres are unaffected.

Mr English said it was not clear whether or not centres would pass on the cost of the changes in higher fees. "Early childhood centres have done very well in the last four or five years because they've had three times as much revenue coming into the system and basically the same number of kids and staff."

The sector would still get $91.8m of new spending and existing subsidies were "largely still in place".

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The change to funding qualified teachers will save $295.3m and cuts in other areas, including the restoration of a daily time limit on centre hours, adds up to $449m in cuts over four years.

Mr Goff said the cuts were slashing from the foundation of learning.

It was "a disastrous failure to invest in the future of our country, which is our children".

The Kindergarten Association will be hardest hit, as its centres use 100 per cent qualified staff.