John Key can flippantly deflect media scrutiny of his Government’s unkind cuts to early childhood education by referring to the snip he himself has voluntarily undertaken, but many early childhood services are having to make hard decisions about how to deal with it all.
Qualified teachers are being replaced by the untrained, by attrition or redundancy; parent fee increases are coming; trips, meals and resources are being reduced or the costs off-set to parents as much as possible. Those who have recently made the big commitment to train as teachers are facing difficult times, with employers deciding to stop supporting their studies part way through their training, or telling them they will continue on lower pay (think $14 per hr) even once they have qualified. The Government has sent the market clear signals and it has heard them and acted accordingly.
Pity about the children who will bear the consequences of lower quality early childhood education and more difficulties participating in pre-school level education. Not to mention the parents who will be re-calculating whether early childhood education is affordable for them, especially those who needed the cover to be able to seek paid work.
This year’s budget is not the first time early childhood education funding has been cut since this National-led government took power. In both their first and second budgets this Government has given a little with one hand and taken a lot with the other. Here’s a summary, based on the 2009 and 2010 Budget information for early childhood education put together by the Ministry of Education (all rounded to the nearest $M):
- $295M from abolishing the two highest funding bands for centres, creating a new 80%+ band (funded at a lower level than the previous equivalent) and capping the number of centres that can access this new funding band.
- $275M from not going ahead with previously Budgeted ratio improvements (reducing the number of children per teacher for some age groups), which were supposed to take effect in July 2009.
- $43M from reducing support for people to train as early childhood teachers, recruit new teachers, or return to the profession
- $10M from ending all Ministry-supported professional development in early childhood education.
Total cuts in 2009 & 2010 budgets: $623M
- $92M for targeted initiatives to increase participation, particularly for Maori, Pasifika and low-income families, over the next four years.
- $20M for including 5 year olds, kohanga reo and playcentres in the 20 Hours funding scheme, which had previously only applied to 3 and 4 year olds and teacher-led services (kohanga reo are sometimes, and playcentres are always parent-led) – to come into effect July 1st 2010, the $70M is spending in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13. (Note: this is listed in the 2009 information as an almost $70M increase, however that $70M includes another initiative, removing the 6 hour attendance cap, which the Government has reneged on in the 2010 budget. As they have said that not going ahead with that will save $50M I’ve reduced this increase accordingly.)
- $47M for an inflation-level 2.4% increase to the non-staffing component in the funding rates for many of the funding categories (which are quite numerous, see this page here if you want a list of them all with the rates) over the next four years
- $35M to cover some services being able to access higher funding because primary-trained teachers will count towards accessing higher funding bans, again over the next four years. This is a bit of a dubious increase to claim, because many of these services might have been able to access the higher funding bans without the change to include primary-trained teachers, by using early childhood-trained teachers as more people completed their training.
- $10M in costs for implementing the cuts to funding rates listed above.
Total increases in 2009 & 2010 budgets: $204M
Thus in the term of this National-led Government they have cut $419M out of early childhood education in just their first two years in power.
To put this in context, there are around 4300 licensed early childhood services in New Zealand currently, and if these cuts were spread across them evenly (which they aren’t) then each service would be getting over $96,000 less over the next four years than they would have.
Some more figures, solely around the recent $295M worth of cuts to the centres which currently have 80% or more of their teachers trained in early childhood education:
- Around 2000 centres are effected immediately by these cuts (just under half of all centres)
- From 1st November no new centres will be able to access the 80%+ funding band, effectively capping the number of centres which will be funded to deliver the highest levels of quality, as indicated by high levels of qualified teachers.
- Around 93,000 children are currently enrolled in centres affected by these particular cuts (just over half of all children enrolled)
- That’s nearly $150,000 less funding on average per centre, and over $3100 per child
There are estimates that put the return on investment of early childhood education in the realms of $13 for every $1 spent. These benefits come in the areas of improved education outcomes, as well as downstream reductions in crime, social welfare, and health costs.
Spending $419M less means also writing off potential gains of $5.5 BILLION.
And the Minister of Finance, with the able nodding of the Minister of Education, thinks they have cut “low-quality spending”. There’s a Tui billboard in that.
Some questions journalists should be asking everyone in cabinet:
- Did your children go to an early childhood centre?
- If they did, how many hours a week did they go and did you choose a centre with a high number of trained teachers?
- If they didn’t, is that because your family could afford to have one parent stay at home full time?
- Would you be okay with 20% of school children having untrained teachers?
- Would you send your child to a school with classrooms run by untrained teachers?
The answers would be revealing.
Oh and how many vasectomy operations would $419M buy? If this is the going rate, over 1 million. What a snip.