ECES feel the pinch
Many early childhood centres in Porirua are feeling the impact of Government funding cuts, with some saying they have been forced to pass the costs on to parents.
Education union the New Zealand Educational Institute says reductions to subsidies for childcare centres with a high level of qualified staffing have hit centres and parents hard, with more than 2000 ECE centres affected nationwide since the cuts came into effect in February.
Wellington Kindergartens, which runs 64 kindergartens from Wellington to Levin – 21 in the Kapi-Mana area – says it has lost $3 million for the 2011-12 financial year, or $48,000 per kindergarten, because of the cut.
The change from a Governmentmandated target of 100 per cent qualified staff, to a funding cap at 80 per cent qualified staff ‘‘ was a disappointing and disturbing change in direction’’, the Wellington Kindergarten board chairwoman Carole Olmedo said, in a letter to parents.
‘‘The unfortunate reality is that these changes are having a huge impact on us and we need to make some difficult choices to ensure quality is preserved in our kindergartens.’’
The organisation was encouraging parents to pay a donation each term to help them retain teachers, and had supplied parents with contact details for local MPs, and encouraged them to voice their concerns.
Porirua First Five ECE centre supervisor Jenni Mason agreed the funding changes had been a blow.
‘‘ We’ve been quite badly affected . . . we lost about $20,000 in funding,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ve had to put our fees up three times, a total of $7 a day per child. Over a week, for families that’s a $35 a week increase.’’
The centre has also had to cut back a part-time position it kept for ECE students, and increase the number of children on its roll.
Mrs Mason said families had been very understanding of the fee rises.
But on top of the increase in GST in October, and rising living expenses, families were feeling the cost.
‘‘Parents are working longer days, doing a nine or 10-hour day, so the children are here for a longer time,’’ Mrs Mason said.
‘‘We charge a daily rate, so the parents are saving money, but it’s a lot harder for the children – that’s a very, very long day.
‘‘We used to have a huge group of fulltime children, now we only have three and a large group of part-time children.’’
While many ECE centres would do their best to find ways to meet high standards of care and education, reductions in the quality of early childhood education would have farreaching effects, Mrs Mason said.
‘‘It’s going to have a flow-on effect right throughout the community, and education system,’’ she said.
‘‘For every dollar spent on early childhood you’re saving $15 later on in the child’s life.
‘‘It just seems ludicrous that we are cutting the funding to such a vital part of the community.
‘‘The government gave everybody tax cuts last year and then turned around and took them back from young families with the other hand.
‘‘They do not appear to be doing much to help the middle classes or lower class families.’’