Last week in the House I asked the Minister of Education why Kidicorp, the richest corporate early childhood provider in the country, has been given an extra $2.5 million of taxpayers money to expand their business.
This story was somewhat subsumed by the Hekia Parata and Kohanga Reo meltdown but is actually very disturbing. It is yet another case of the Governments shameless subsidising of corporates to build their businesses in the education sector.
The Minister is clearly very comfortable with the two contracts she has signed to help Kidicorp build new centres in low income areas. She sees no problem privileging them with a big handout while Playcentre are telling us they have less than two years left on current funding levels and kindergartens are struggling because they put quality first.
The communities where ECE participation levels are patchy do not need a big corporate provider to come in and make a buck off their kids; they need home-grown solutions that are well supported by high quality educators.
Despite the best efforts of the National Government to turn the whole early childhood sector into private enterprise there are still some great not for profit programmes based in communities. One example is Wellington kindergarten working with small home based teams in Porirua, connecting Pasifika families with accessible early childhood education. There are amazing efforts being led by Kids First, the kindergarten network in Christchurch who are offering an additional ten free hours to families who need it but cannot pay fees! Playcentres have a stellar track record although their future looks shaky due to funding cuts and compliance demands on a mainly vountary organisation.
The Minsiter is happy that $2.5 million goes to the Kidicorp model because then she can say the low decile communities have been covered but the Green Party would rather see the money going into not for profits based on school sites or in communities where children are at the heart of the centres rather the shareholder’s profits. We think public money should be used for best practice early childhood options that are entirely motivated by childrens needs.