'Brutal' Kindy cuts slammed

Kindergarten teachers say "brutal funding cuts" are threatening to squash their historic service to 26,000 Kiwi families.

Education Minister Anne Tolley was yesterday challenged at the Kindergarten Association's annual conference over funding changes, which one service said would leave it with half of the money it had before.

Tolley was unapologetic over the cuts. She pressed kindergartens not to hike fees to make up the shortfall, but instead use fewer qualified teachers.

"You have your decisions to make around your budgeting. As minister, I have my decisions to make around my budgeting," Tolley said.

"The rising costs were unsustainable."

The Government announced in the May Budget that the top rate of funding for early childhood education (ECE) centres with more than 80 per cent qualified staff would be removed.

Kindergartens operate with 100 per cent qualified staff. They estimate they will lose about $14m funding as a result of the change.

Tolley said she did not accept Kindergarten was at risk.

"You have a philosophical point of view and I respect that. But I can't afford to pay for it."

Kindergarten Association chief executive Claire Wells said research showed high levels of qualified teachers made for better ECE services.

She asked Tolley to reconsider the funding changes, but the minister declined.

The Press