The Nats are getting ready to cut 20 Hours Free Early Childhood Education, after having promised during the election campaign not only to keep it but extend it.
Given the opportunity during Question Time to restate National’s 2008 promise to ” retain all the existing subsidies and fee controls” on early childhood education Tolley instead said “this Government is committed to ensuring that early childhood education remains affordable and accessible”. Word games: she’s clearly leaving herself some linguistic wiggle room for breaking her promises later.
Now, as r0b noted earlier today, Bill English and, now, Tolley are laying the groundwork for cutting 20Free ECE by saying its cost has tripled in five years. Well, we all know by now that English will lie bare-faced about numbers when it suits him and you wouldn’t trust Tolley to count her fingers and get the same number twice. And this time they’re just being tricky by talking about the cost of all ECE funding and taking a comparison date from before 20Free started.
Before 20Free was introduced in Budget 2007, the annual government budget for ECE subsidies was $586 million. 20Free cost $109 million more in the first year. With inflation etc, the total cost rose to $755 million in 2007/08. In Budget 2009, the cost was $1,106 million.
That’s not a tripling like the Nats want you to believe, it’s a 46% increase. Take out inflation and it’s a 38% increase – and that’s all from providing more hours, getting in more registered teachers, and paying them better.
For that $1.1 billion, the government pays for a mind-blowing 150 million hours of ECE per year. What an incredible bargain to get our children off to the best start in their education.
Look, the Nats don’t have to lie. If they want to break their promises to expand 20Free ECE they should just say ‘we just wanted to get elected, so we said what you wanted to hear. We’re going to break our promises and cut ECE’.
Of course, all National sees is expenditure with no short-term economic gain. They don’t understand the concept of long-term investment, they see this as waste they can eliminate to pay for tax cuts for the rich. By the time we’re bearing the costs, the Key Government will be long gone (and if we’re really unlucky some future National Government will respond to the predictable results of undereducated kids entering adulthood by getting tough on crime and ‘bludgers’).
How can I make an analogy for the foolishness of trying to make small savings on ECE given the long term costs? It’s like a government saying that it will cut house building costs by relaxing building standards, then acting surprised when the crap houses start failing a decade or two later. Oh wait, the Nats did that too.