Hundreds of people at early childhood centres around the country, including centres at many tertiary education institutions, donned green t-shirts on 1 February to protest against the government’s cuts to early childhood education. The Day of Action was organised by NZEI Te Riu Roa which represents early childhood teachers, and was used to launch a community petition against the funding cuts.
The cuts were announced in last year’s Budget and take $295 million dollars out of early childhood education over the next few years by reducing funding for early childhood centres and services which have more than 80 percent fully qualified staff. The changes affect 93,000 children in 2,000 kindergartens and early childhood centres around the country – just over half the number of children enrolled nationwide.
An NZEI survey of 26 community-based early childhood centres in Christchurch found that the average amount of funding being lost was $43,000 and collectively they were losing $1.12 million from their budgets this year.
The result is that families are paying the cost as centres are forced to put up their fees to make up their funding shortfalls.
“This is going to put huge pressure on already stretched family budgets,” says NZEI National Executive member Hayley Whitaker.
“Many parents now have to weigh up whether they can afford to continue working or whether they can keep their children enrolled. On the other side, many services are looking at laying off their qualified staff to make ends meet.”
NZEI is urging parents, grandparents and people in all communities to get behind the petition and send a strong message to the government that our youngest children are worth more.
You can download copies of the petition at www.nzei.org.nz