Quality Public Education Coalition says that a major problem with the ECE sector is that a large part of it is for-profit, privately owned, and in many cases, part of foreign chains.
In its place, QPEC argues for public ownership in a partnership model with Government and community.
There has been serious focus on ECE in the past two weeks through mainstream media via radio and print, through political party statements, and through a University of Waikato webinar with Canadian specialists in ECE funding.
It has become clear that there are serious concerns with the use of public funds and with the standards of many ECE centres. It is reported that “a serious chunk of $2.3 billion a year in taxpayer funding is collected by for-profit providers and passed on to investors,” in a sector that is over 60% privately owned.
Michelle Duff reports, “Industry watchdogs said monitoring was haphazard, allowing businesses to cut corners in staffing and resources and jeopardise child safety.”
Previously in the NZ Herald, Professor Emerita Linda Mitchell noted the closure of 10 privately owned centres post-lockdown. She quoted a Ministry of Education official: “allegations of physical or emotional injuries inflicted on children, including verbal abuse, isolation of children and physical harm, poor curriculum quality, a lack of staff and poor learning support”.
Mitchell summed up: “It is scandalous such ECE centres are allowed to exist, propped up by government funding. This was made possible by the ease with which private owners can establish a childcare “business” without having any ECE expertise themselves, access government funding, determine their own staff pay and conditions, and operate with insufficient accountability for their use of funds.”
QPEC argues that there are numbers of distinct advantages to public ownership:
- ECE would serve the public good, not private profit-making
- it would be NZ-owned, not foreign-owned and directed
- it could ensure public oversight for standards of staff and curriculum
- the public funds currently supporting foreign and private entities could go directly into financing public ECE
- ECE could become a free service
QPEC is a coalition of parents and educators concerned to promote high quality within each sector of public education. It was launched in mid 1997 and is an incorporated society.