Wednesday, September 07, 2011

National is going to cut 20 hours free ECE

In Question Time today, Labour's Sue Moroney asked Minister of Education Anne Tolley a simple question: would she commit to keeping the existing subsidies for 20 hours free ECE in place if the government was re-elected? Tolley's answer?

It is good to hear the Opposition talking about this Government being re-elected. What I can say is that this Government will be retaining 20 hours’ early childhood education and fee controls.

[Snip point of order for evasion]

The answer to the question is that we will be retaining the 20 hours’ early childhood education and fee controls.

[Snip more points of order for evasion]

I attempted to answer the question by saying this Government, should it be re-elected, intends to maintain 20 hours’ early childhood service, which is a subsidy programme, and the fee controls. They are the two essential parts of 20 hours: universal provision of early childhood services for 20 hours for every 3 and 4-year-old, with fee controls—

It is not free. It never has been free, which is why we renamed it. It was never free—

There is something happening towards the end of November, which is called an election, and if the Opposition wants to know what the Government’s policy is, it will have to wait until it is announced.

Given the ample, repeated opportunities to clearly say "yes", I think we can only interpret this repeated evasion as a "no". National is planning to cut ECE subsidy levels, raising the cost to parents and reducing access. If you are a parent of young children, or are planning to be one, or know some and want their kids to have a good education, then you may want to vote accordingly.