Yesterday the Education Select Committee had one hour to question the Minister of Education Anne Tolley on the Budget Estimates for Education.
The responses the Minister gave on the cuts to Early Childhood Education fit into the “black is really white” category.
She said that the cuts to the centres were an opportunity for those businesses and that it was all about choices.
Labour MP Sue Moroney and I pressed her on whose choices and Sue exposed the real cost of the cuts which will increase fees and will be passed on to the parents. But the Minister blithely talked about how the child care centres won’t have to pass on the costs to parents and how they have nine months to think up some other way to survive without hurting poorer families.
It is already apparent that families will be paying up to $60.00 more per child per week and that some will have to withdraw their children. The Minister said that was about people prioritising. She really believes poor people have the same economic choices as richer people.
She talked a lot about the targeting of Maori and Pacific Island families who have low participation rates and need quality childcare which is all good until you see that quality childcare training cuts are a core part of the Budget impact.
Our ‘Mind the Gap‘ proposal and many social commentators since the Budget have identified that we have one of the fastest growing gaps between the rich and poor in the OECD.
There is absolutely no dispute that early childhood is a crucial time for learning but the Government makes no apology for these cuts. They have three lines of argument when challenging on virtually anything including ECE: “It’s a recession, the business model will work, and everyone has a choice.”
Tell that to the kids who miss out!