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20 hours free to go?

Written By: - Date published: 1:57 pm, October 28th, 2010 - 33 comments
Categories: class war, education, families - Tags: , ,

The last Labour government introduced 20 hours free early childhood education. It’s a resource that many parents have since come to rely on, taking some pressure off household budgets as every other cost seems to keep on going up and up.

Well, don’t get too used to it parents. The Herald reports:

The 20 hours of free care children 3 and over receive in early childhood centres is under review, despite the Government’s election promise that it would not cut or change the popular scheme.

Education Minister Anne Tolley established an independent taskforce this month to review the effectiveness of spending in the early childhood education sector and propose innovative ideas about learning.

Questioned this week in Parliament about whether funding for the 20-hours scheme would be exempt from the review, she replied: “No, but this Government promised to retain the subsidies and fee controls that make up 20 hours’ early childhood services.”

When pushed on what would happen if the taskforce recommended making changes to the scheme, Mrs Tolley said she could not anticipate the outcome of the review.

Can anyone else read the coded message in this language? Why do you “review” something if you have ruled out changes? This is just the latest in a series of indictions that the Nats are planning to cut 20 hours free — we have written on this before here and here. Labour’s Sue Moroney is also raising the red flag (see her press release on Tuesday on broken promises).

Cutting early childhood is stupid, short term thinking from National, even worse than slashing adult and community (night classes). Early childhood education is one of the best investments a government can make. But it is an investment for the future, and National doesn’t seem to be interested in that.

33 comments on “20 hours free to go? ”

  1. The $33M of taxpayer’s dollars given to corporate charity today would have bought a lot of early childhood education.

    Sacrificing childcare to pay for Peter Jackson’s toys. Nice one.

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      And the $670M brought into the country because of that payout will flow through to many families who have their children in ECE.

      • Tigger 1.1.1

        Even assuming your ‘flow’ argument holds water – your point apparently is that we can remove free ECE because an overseas corp is spending some cash here?

        • Lanthanide

          Where does it say they chose to spend $33M of taxpayers money on a movie, instead of spending that $33M funding ECE?

          Do you believe that they are going to have to cut ECE because of the money spent on the movie? No, not really, because they didn’t suddenly slash a whole lot of other government programmes because of the 1.6B bailout of SCF. They also found money within the budget to give extra funding to private schools. So this is clearly not a case of “$33M for ECE or $33M for the hobbit, and we chose the hobbit”.

          • Zorr

            They are slashing other sectors to “afford” the tax cuts for their rich mates. Just because the action they have taken this week hasn’t immediately resulted in surgery, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t lay odds on that John Key trots out the bailout AND The Hobbit as key financial issues with maintaining funding levels.

          • Vicky32

            Lanth, you seem to be getting a tad rightist on the subject of the Hobbit… 🙁

            • Lanthanide

              I’ve maintained all along that the way the unions handled the situation was a complete and utter shambles. It does appear that WB have gotten their financial payoff as they wanted, but they didn’t start the whole mess and nor do I think the threat to take the production offshore was a hollow one as many seem to around here.

              I don’t think any of that makes me “rightest” – I support unionism, but I’m also not going to believe everything the union has said simply because they’re a leftwing organisation (such as “all we ever wanted was a chat” when it has been revealed that they had the botcott in place before even approaching PJ).

              • felix

                “It does appear that WB have gotten their financial payoff as they wanted, but they didn’t start the whole mess… “

                Lanth, could you please explain what this means without using the following words:

                “I have an unnatural and unexamined lust to supplicate to and please my betters and I avoid confronting this horrible and fearful gut response by reverting to the simple metaphors of my childhood. I apologise if this makes me come across as a run-of-the-mill authoritarian suck-job”.

              • Colonial Viper

                I never got the idea of why someone who starts a fire in the corner of the house simply to stay warm (AE trying to get their members claims for minimum terms and conditions heard) gets blamed for the whole frakin building burning down when a bad actor turns up (Peter Jackson) who is determined to pour petrol all over the proceedings and turn it into a bonfire for his individual benefit.

      • Macro 1.1.2

        since when did “trickle down” actually work?

        • Lanthanide

          Since all of the people working on the hobbit would otherwise not have the money coming in from that job?

          It’s pretty clear-cut in this case, too.

  2. vidiot 2

    20 hours free – what a joke. It was 20 hours @ a subsidised rate. Or in laymans terms $36.00 a week for two 9am to 3pm sessions. It was never free.

    • Zorr 2.1

      wow… just wow… you don’t have a clue do you?

      • vidiot 2.1.1

        Sorry – how can you call something that promotes 20 hours free, when there are many valid examples where it was a subsidy for upto 20 hours of childcare. Reality was & is, that you pay per session that your child attends. In my daughters case $9 per session (9 to 12, 12 – 3 is 2 sessions) 2 days a weeks = $36 a week for teh equivalent of 12 hours childcare. Which in my books isn’t 20 hours and isn’t free.

        Would you like to buy an O for Oarsome Zorr[o]

  3. Ed 3

    I know a mother in my family is already giving up work as her family is not able to afford the higher pre-school fees that have already come through – reducing support for early childhood education further will mean that many more families will have to go back to relying on a single income. So the demand for family assistance is likely to grow, tax income fall, and many more New Zealanders will have a lower standard of living. All what we have come to expect from the selfish National/ACT government

  4. tc 4

    Abolishing nightclasses was a disgraceful decision that’s cut across society as alot of older folk gained great personal and social value from then so really this is just more of the same and that taskforce will be as ‘independent’ as Sideshow’s decision being ‘independent’ from his blind trust interests are.

    Why does this appalling excuse for a crown minister never seem to get lined up and taken out by her shadow minister and by ‘taken out ‘ I don’t mean dinner and a show……sitting duck I reckon the way she losses the plot under persistent inquiry.

    • Yeah there’s not many on Labour’s side I’d credit with being able to take down a wounded sheep let alone a Minister but Trevor ought to be able to handle the job with one Chuck Norris-like raise of his eyebrow. What’s going on?!

      Less time censoring at Red Alert, Trevor, and more time in the trenches. Democracy relies on an effective opposition, and you (and a handful of others) are it.

  5. bobo 5

    National have always hated this policy as a “cruel hoax” which they were begrudgingly forced to pledge they wouldn’t cut in last election , I wonder what lame excuse they will use to break this one. Maybe introducing the good old “means testing” is making a come back from the nasty 90s thus technically not “cutting” the scheme in their book?

    • ianmac 5.1

      bobo. Surely not means testing? The rich would be thus penalised and we don’t want any of that do we?

      • bobo 5.1.1

        It wasn’t the rich who had services cut through “means testing” the last time round.

  6. Hamish Gray 6

    A fairly telling introduction to this by R0B…

    “It’s a resource that many parents have since come to rely on, taking some pressure off household budgets as every other cost seems to keep on going up and up.”

    Yes, another government intervention that induces dependency across all sectors of society (including the wealthy – hardly the target group). Evidently, by your own admission, people managed beforehand – they’ll manage again. The whole scheme is mistargeted and shouldn’t have scooped up so many wealthy New Zealanders into its net.

    And as Vidiot points out, it was never free. ECE providers warned this when the scheme was introduced. They aren’t charities.

    • lprent 6.1

      So on that basis you’d disapprove of state funded primary and secondary education as well? You can use exactly the same arguments about those. Perhaps you’d explain your position on those misapplied funds? If you have a different opinion on those, perhaps you’d explain your reasoning – I am sure people will be happy to explain that there is little difference.

      Perhaps in your view we should send children to work rather than educate them?

      • Hamish Gray 6.1.1


        A policy was introduced to address a problem – low income households having their earning potential restricted because of an inability to afford childcare. But the policy ended up being applied so broadly that it benefitted wealthier households that are in a far better position to afford childcare.

        The long-term affordability of the policy was thus compromised. If it couldn’t be sustained, then the threat is that the entire policy is shelved.

        I don’t have a problem with policies that expand the earning potential of low-income households (thus helping break the poverty cycle), provided they are carefully targeted and do not create middle-class dependency.

        Perhaps unquestionable supporters of the policy could explain why they think it is acceptable for the inclusion of wealthier households in the policy, thus jeopardising its future for all, including low-income earners. I thought you were supposed to be on their side.

        • Bunji

          It’s jeopardised because of Tolley and a NACT government, not any sensible economics. $1 invested results in $13 gain to the economy – nothing has a rate of return like Early Childhood Education. It’s not just childcare so the poor can work, it fundamentally changes children’s life chances.

          I look forward to you arguing that those earning over $40k (ie middle income) should now pay for their children’s primary and secondary education, to break their cycle of dependency.

          • Hamish Gray

            So instead of debating early childhood education, you’re more interested in debating all other forms of education? Bit of a leap, non? And still no explanation as to why high and middle-income households are being subsidised at the expense of lower income households. I thought you didn’t like Key’s “rich mates” and all their political favours.

            20 hours of “free” ECE is a recent introduction, an entitlement afforded precisely at a time when New Zealand cannot afford it. If we were rolling in money, then perhaps, but we’re not. I’d rather resources targeted the most vulnerable in society to break that poverty cycle.

            The benefits of primary and secondary education, to the individual, the family unit, the community and the economy are accepted across the board. Which is why every NZ government, whether right or left has encouraged attendance and supported extending the length of time children are required to attend school.

            Aside from kindergarten, who here received ECE? It was non-existent in New Zealand until the early 1990s, yet pre 90s seems to be what many on here want us to return to in terms of social and economic conditions. So how did we ever cope without ECE. How did we ever learn to read, write and multiply? We did because ECE isn’t so much about intellectual development, but about enabling women to participate in the workforce and increase incomes.

            That’s why it contributes $13 to the economy for every dollar invested – because it enables women to (re)enter the workforce.

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      Dependency? Like the kind of ‘dependency’ a drowning man has clinging on with his last strength to a floatation ring? For fraks sake where does the Right get their infantry from? Do they even bother to put them through basic training before letting loose on an unsuspecting world?

      Particularly when that ‘dependency’ has been created by our business ‘leaders’ and political ‘leaders’ through their engineering of a shit hollowed out economy full of shit low skilled jobs paying a shit <<$20/hr?

      Actually, strike that last, our economy isn't even full of shit low paid jobs, its about one fifth of a million low paid jobs short since we have unemployment and underemployment queues stretching around the block.

      There was a day you know, before this neocon Chicago School stupidity when having more than 20,000 unemployed in the country was considered a complete social and economic disaster.

      Guess what nothing has changed, it still is a total disaster for our nation but most of us just don't really seem to care any more. Well actually, some of us do.

      ECE providers warned this when the scheme was introduced. They aren’t charities.

      What, now that low and middle income children and their parents are going to be victims of NATs typical Tory hard hearted policies its OK because of your clever policy wording?

      people managed beforehand – they’ll manage again.

      Beforehand? Was that before or after a 1kg block of cheese hit $14? Times have changed, its got harder for those who had it hardest to start with, and guess what, since NATs clearly don’t give a damn Labour will, and we are going to let everyone in this country know about it loud and clear.

      • Hamish Gray 6.2.1

        I take it you haven’t seen the figures that price rises have slowed considerably in the past 2 years, to the point where there have been some real price declines?

        Now, granted, NACT was cheeky in claiming this was because of anything other than the global economic slowdown, but surely you have to accept that the commodity-fuelled price peak of 2007/08 was an aberrance that’s since been corrected to a lrge extent.

        • Colonial Viper

          You mean like how inflation was kept low by huge (>20%) drops in LCD TV prices, while food shot up in price?

          Yeah, I’ll try and keep my children fed at dinner with my new 50″ Samsung, thanks for the tip.

          And are you saying that a 1kg block of cheese hasn’t risen from $10/kg to $14/kg in the last 3 years? Do the math for me, whats the CPI on that?

  7. Hamish Gray 7

    There are always individual items that vary more than others. If you look at English’s CPI comparison table, cheese has actually declined in price by 3% in the last 2 years, while eggs and vegetables are down 6% each.

    I realise this is straight from the government’s mouth, but no one actually disputed those numbers, just the interpretation of how they were “achieved” (and rightly so – NACT were being cheeky, like I said).

  8. dave 8

    Perhaps in your view we should send children to work rather than educate them?

    I’m trying hard enough to get my kid a paper run as it is. No vacancies there, either..

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