Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ unilateral decision to prevent parents from sending their children to school before the age of five as part of cohort entry could cost taxpayers up to $42 million more a year, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye has revealed.
“Yet again Mr Hipkins has rushed through an ideological policy without working through the detail or potential cost to taxpayers, and it’s come back to bite him,” Ms Kaye says.
“Last year he announced that he would be changing the law around cohort entry to stop parents being able to send their kids to school prior to their fifth birthday, before receiving any briefings on the issue and without going through the proper Cabinet process.
“Information released under the OIA shows Mr Hipkins only received a memo about the costs of his new policy after he had already announced his decision. It is clear he didn’t give his Cabinet colleagues the full picture of potential costs, which could add up to hundreds of millions over the next few years.
“The memo shows that the Ministry of Education estimates there will be between $5 million and $50 million each year in costs to pay for kids to be in early childhood education for longer, given they will no longer be able to start school early. This is up to $42 million more than it would cost to implement the current policy.
“While it is unlikely that costs will reach $50 million each year because this would require 100 per cent uptake of cohort entry, it is reasonable to assume they could be tens of millions of dollars given the support shown by schools and parents for cohort entry – and that’s without counting the cost to parents of forcing them to keep kids in early childhood education for longer.
“The irresponsible and arrogant manner in which Mr Hipkins made his decision meant that his colleagues weren’t made aware of the potential $42 million annual cost before he announced it.
“This follows his Government’s decision to give $2.8 billion to students for free tertiary education before doing the work needed to ensure that the money would be spent wisely. Now we have a situation where $38 million will be wasted on university dropouts.
“I suspect Mr Hipkins will be steering clear of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who has the unenviable task of trying to balance the books while his colleagues are out spending money behind his back.
“This is a Government with a very tight budget. It cannot afford to be wasting more money because of ideologies and rushed decisions.”