Waikato Times – Saturday, May 29, 2010
Childcare fears at fund cuts.
A reduction in some early-childhood care centre funding in February has Waikato educators torn between raising fees and reducing standards. Karla Akuhata reports.
Waikato educators say they will be made the “bad guys” when the Government implements its decision to reduce funding to some early childcare centres.
From February, extra funding for early-childhood education providers with more then 80 per cent of their teachers registered will be cut by $1.34 an hour for each child under the age of two and $1.47 for those over two-years of age.
A family with a child under the age of two and in childcare for more than 40 hours a week at a centre which chooses to pass on the cuts would have to pay $60.40 more each week.
The cuts will affect 161 centres in the Waikato including 75 in Hamilton.
A further 95 centres will also move into the affected band later this year because of the previous government’s target which required centres to have at least 80 per cent of their staff fully qualified by 2010.
Labour spokesperson for early childhood education Sue Moroney said the cuts would wipe away all progress made in the early childhood sector.
“We wouldn’t accept this at primary level and we wouldn’t accept it at secondary so why do we accept when it comes to our babies?” she said.
“They are effectively saying that a good education at early childhood level is not important.”
Angela Carson operates two north Hamilton centres and said the Kids Club employed only fully qualified staff.
She said it would be families that would really pay for the cuts.
“For us it is about the financial issues but mostly it is about the children,” she said. “Centres will have to absorb the extra costs by dropping qualified staff numbers or cutting resources like trips or by passing on the shortfall to the families.
“They have decided what is going to give the smallest impact is better rather than upsetting the masses and we will have to be the bad guys when it comes to implementing it because we will have to find a way to absorb the costs and inform the parents about what changes need to be made.”
She said she was determined to try and limit the amount passed on to parents but was worried about the effect that would have on the quality of education the children received.
Education Minister Anne Tolley said the cuts would not affect the quality of service.
“Early childhood education services are independent and make their own decisions about fees,” she said. “Less than half of services are affected by the changes to funding, and we have given them more than eight months to adapt.”
“A $46.7 million cost adjustment over four years will help providers meet increasing costs and reduce the need for fee increases.
“We have set a target of 80 per cent registered teachers by 2012, which will ensure that high standards will be maintained across the sector.”