My kids’ kindergarten has just given us a letter saying that, due to government funding cuts, they will now be asking for a 50c per hour donation from the parents of each child to help cover the costs of our twenty free hours of early childhood education. For our two children that works out to about $13 a week, or $500 for the year. We can probably spring for that sort of cash, as can, I imagine, many but not all the parents in Island Bay.
But I’m also pretty sure Island Bay is not an average suburb when it comes to spare cash lying about to pay for kindergartens.
Wellington Kindergarten Association says that the cuts are the result of the government choosing to fund only 80 percent fully qualified teachers in kindergartens. (Imagine if they made a similar decision with other professionals?) The government also cut the funding to support training and professional development for registered teachers. And, it commissioned a report to look into removing universal access to twenty free hours, instead proving funding to groups where participation is low. User pays for the rest.
The outcome is a cut in funding of about $48,000 for each kindergarten in Wellington.
As the kindergarten association says:
“It ignores the widespread view that high quality education, with its wide and long-term benefits to society, should be freely accessible and available to all New Zealand families.”
The Minister said last year, when she made the cuts:
“I think it is unlikely that most centres will pass on those costs, because they are able to change their staffing, they are able to change their services—they are able to do a number of things in order to make those changes.”
She then went on to ‘express disappointment’ in a range of early childhood education providers who did introduce ‘voluntary’ donations to cover their costs.
Well, it seems to me that Wellington Kindergarten Association has done all it can to avoid asking for donations. It has waited over a year since the first budget announcement. it has changed its hours and services. And now, because of its commitment to high quality teaching it has still been left no choice but to charge money for free education.