Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Massive ECE fee hikes on the way

When National ripped $400 million out of ECE funding, Education Minister Anne Tolley tried to pretend that it wouldn't hurt anyone, and that it wouldn't result in lower quality education or in parents having to pay higher fees to make up the shortfall.


A new survey, conducted by the Labour Party and released exclusively to the Herald, shows most centres facing the cuts plan to compensate by making staff redundant, passing costs on to parents or a combination of both.

The survey, which questioned 435 of the centres facing cuts, found 89 per cent planned to pass costs on to parents by increasing fees.

Those increases varied from $2 to $80 per child per week. In Auckland just over half of the centres indicated fees were likely to increase by $15 to $30, 14 per cent were $40 to $50 and 5 per cent were planning on increases of more than $50 a week.

There are about 2,000 early childhood education centres nationwide, so this is a fairly comprehensive survey. And what it clearly shows is that parents will be paying more due to National's cuts. The equation of working to pay for childcare so you can work is already tenuous enough, and the inevitable result will be people (mostly women) pushed out of the workforce as they can no longer afford to work. It will also utterly hamstring National's proposals to force solo parents back into the workforce - you just can't do that without access to cheap, affordable childcare. But worse than all of that, it will undermine the educational opportunities (and future prospects) of an entire generation of kiwi kids.

As I have said before, early childhood education is one of the best investments a society can make. It leads to smarter, better educated, healthier kids, who have higher average incomes and are less likely to go to jail. It also increases social mobility, and decreases inequality. But National isn't interested in any of that. All they care about is tax cuts now, for their rich mates - and the rest of us can go to hell.