Labour pledges extra $193m in its first term for early childhood sector

Labour would increase funding "for centres that employ 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers".
KAROLINE TUCKEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Labour would increase funding "for centres that employ 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers".

Labour is promising an extra $193 million over three years for early childhood education.

Leader Andrew Little said Labour would increase funding "for centres that employ 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers, and we will require all ECE centres to employ at least 80 per cent qualified teachers by the end of our first term".

"This $193m increase for Early Childhood Education demonstrates our commitment to strong public services as the foundation for a just and prosperous society."

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins in March signed the party up to an NZEI's push for more ECE funding.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins in March signed the party up to an NZEI's push for more ECE funding.

The announcement by Little on Friday fleshes out the party's long standing policy for the sector.

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He said scrapping National's Budget tax cuts - a key feature of Labour's family package this week - meant it could afford to invest in the things that will make a difference to people's lives.

"National has reduced funding for ECE centres that have 100 per cent qualified teachers and has frozen per-child funding rates since 2010. As a result, ECE fees have risen 25 per cent for parents."

Labour would end the funding freeze and increase funding rates to at least account for inflation.

He said Labour would roll out its plans for a "fresh approach" to the education sector over the next week.

In March Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins signed up to the NZEI's "Have a Heart Pledge" committing Labour to "properly funding early childhood education, dealing with ballooning class/group sizes, and returning to the goal of having 100 per cent qualified teachers in centres". 

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On Friday he said Labour would provide targeted establishment grants for new public ECEs in areas of low-provision and only provide taxpayer subsidies for new ECEs "if there's an established need".

The NZEI enthusiastically welcomed Labour's ECE policy as a "wonderful first step", saying it would provide tangible benefits for children.

"Labour's promise to restore funding for services that employ 100 percent qualified teachers, will be an enormous relief for teachers and services who've struggled to maintain quality after the current Government cut their funding in 2010," NZEI Te Riu Roa president Lynda Stuart said.

"At the moment many children are getting a high quality ECE from qualified professional teachers, but some children aren't. We say every child is worth the best."

But National Campaign Chair Steven Joyce said Labour were selling the ECE sector short and funding for early childhood education has more than doubled since this government has come into office..

"We've just added $390m in new funding for early childhood education over the next four years, starting just two weeks ago on July 1 That forms part of our huge $7 billion investment in growing core public services in Budget 2017."

But a spokesman for Labour said its commitment was for an extra $193m over and above existing spending.

"The Minister is plain wrong. Labour has not announced a single cut to any existing ECE initiatives and we don't intend to."

Labour is set to announce its fiscal policy next week that will outline its plans for extra spending, including how it will allocate the $600m a year it would free up from scrapping National's tax cut package in favour of its own cheaper plan targeted at families and low and middle income earners.

It will have extra cash to spend on top of the $600m because it plans to cut Government debt more slowly than National.

 - Stuff

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