The Labour Party has promised to spend an extra $600 million over the next four years on boosting childcare teachers' pay if it is re-elected next month.
The promise to "work towards pay parity" between kindergarten teachers and teachers in the rest of the early childhood education (ECE) sector is the centrepiece of Labour's education policy for the election, unveiled by Education Minister Chris Hipkins at a Porirua childcare centre today.
It does not promise to achieve parity within its next term of government, but has earmarked $600m towards boosting ECE teachers' pay.
"If re-elected, Labour will ensure all 17,000 teachers working in education and care centres are paid what they deserve," Hipkins said.
"A significant pay gap has built up over time. The previous National Government stopped the practice of passing on increased kindergarten funding rates that met the cost of pay settlements to education and care services, as had been done previously.
"The lowest paid education and care teachers have already received a pay boost to bring them in line with kindergarten teachers' pay from 1 July this year."
Labour's policy launch comes one day after the National Party launched its own education policy, which did not mention pay parity but promised to "continue to lift minimum pay requirements for qualified ECE staff".
Labour has abandoned the centrepiece of its 2017 education policy - expanding fees-free tertiary education from one year in its first term to two years in its second term and three years in its third term.
"Labour will retain the first year of the fees-free programme, but not extend the programme into additional fees-free years," Hipkins said.
"We will be targeting our additional tertiary education spending in areas that are critical for the country's economic recovery in the post-Covid environment. Initiatives such as free apprenticeships and targeted areas of vocational training will be prioritised, supported by the reform of the vocational education system which we will be completing if re-elected."
Labour has already implemented free access to apprenticeships and to many trades training courses over the next two years using Covid-19 funding. Its policy does not provide for continuing this policy beyond the next two years.
The other spending commitments in Labour's policy are:
- $200m a year for free lunches for all children at the most disadvantaged quarter of schools by the end of next year.
- $400m over four years to reform the school system including creating an Education Services Agency within the Ministry of Education, setting up an independent complaints system, strengthening governance and leadership, establishing a Curriculum Centre, a more managed approach to approving new ECE centres and expanding the network of Maori-language schools.
- $320m over four years to replace the current decile-based school funding system with a new system based on an "equity index" measuring the social backgrounds of all students in all schools.
- $15m over four years to "make sure schools in all our communities are able to deliver quality online learning to all their students if we have another [Covid-19] outbreak".
- $10m over four years to "develop tools to better understand children and young people's learning progress" and implementing changes to the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA).