Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins visited Heretaunga Kindergarten on Tuesday as part of a national day of action against government funding cuts to Early Childhood Education.
“I’m very concerned about these cuts to early childhood education. Many of our local services are finding that they will have to put up their fees, while others are being forced to consider reducing their numbers of qualified staff. It’s just not on,” Chris Hipkins said.
The National Government has cut $400 million from the budgets of high quality early childhood education services by removing the two funding bands for services with 80-100% qualified staff and taking away funding to support professional development.
Survey results reveal that the average amount of funding lost for affected centres in the Wellington region sits at $37,936.
“Many families in Upper Hutt are already struggling with GST increases and expensive grocery prices, while some have even faced redundancy or reduced hours at work. Increasing costs for their kids early childhood education is last thing they need. Parents have every right to be angry; these cuts represent a broken promise from the National Government,” Chris Hipkins said.
The cuts came into effect on February 1st, and to mark the day, the teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa launched a nationwide petition calling on the government to reverse the cuts and commit to more ECE investment. New Zealand government spending on ECE is currently below the OECD average and the NZEI “Cuts Don’t Heal” petition urges the Government to move toward spending 1% of GDP on early childhood education.
“It’s great to see so many of our local centres and communities getting behind the petition to protest these short-sighted cuts. Research has shown that for every dollar spent on quality early childhood education, $17 is saved for the country in future costs like prisons, health care, unemployment and remedial education. These cuts just show that the government has got its priorities all wrong,” Chris Hipkins said.
Heretaunga Kindergarten highlighted the cause by having an ‘80% day’, removing some of their resources to demonstrate how essential ECE funding is to daily operations. The staff and children had to make do by painting without brushes, missing chairs to sit on at lunch time, and singing along to a guitar with only 5 strings.
Mr Hipkins also expressed concern about the long-term impacts these cuts in the most vulnerable areas of our communities.
“If wealthy neighbourhoods can afford 100% qualified staff, while others have reduced quality or lower participation because they can’t afford it, what will this mean for future equality in New Zealand? Those children who miss out will be behind the others for the rest of their lives.
“Labour opposes these cuts as they go against the hard work we did in Government to improve the quality and affordability of early childhood education. In line with our renewed commitment to put children at the heart of our policy, Labour will restore funding to the sector when elected to Government along with introducing other initiatives, like extending parental leave, to ensure all children have the best possible start to life,” Chris Hipkins said.
To sign the NZEI “Cuts Don’t Heal” petition visit one of Chris Hipkins’ electorate offices or download the petition from http://www.nzei.org.nz/