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Why is Pay Parity in the ECE Sector a Dog’s Breakfast?

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August 11, 2022.

The question has to be asked, why does the government only fund ECE teacher pay and conditions under the Kindergarten Teachers’ and Senior Teachers Collective Agreement (KTCA) and not any other ECE collective agreements? It does not make sense. It is discriminatory because just like every other community based ECE service around our country, Kindergarten Associations are not part of the public service. Kindergarten Associations are not funded and managed in the same way as schools are. Kindergarten teachers are not public servants, they are privately employed by Kindergarten Associations.

Kindergarten teachers have pay parity with primary school teachers. Teachers in other ECE centres with the same qualifications and doing the same work may at most have ersatz pay parity.

StepsQualification levelKindergarten Association teachers (may increase when new pay rates are ratified in June 2022)Non-kindergarten centre teachers’ salary attestation rates for “extended parity funding” from 1 Jan 2023% Difference
1Entry for teachers with P1 Diploma, P2, or P3 quals$24.69 hour
$51,358 salary
$24.69 hour
$51,358 salary
2 $25.74 hour
$53,544 salary
$25.74 hour
$53,544 salary
3Entry for P3+ qual$26.90 hour
$55,948 salary
$26.90 hour
$55,948 salary
4Entry for P4$27.95 hour
$58,133 salary
$27.95 hour
$58,133 salary
5Entry for P5$29.71 hour
$61,794 salary
$29.71 hour
$61,794 salary
6$31.62 hour
$65,776 salary
$31.62 hour
$65,776 salary
7 $33.67 hour
$70,040 salary
$32.74 hour
$68,103 salary
2.8% less
8 $36.15 hour
$75,190 salary
$33.86 hour
$70,431 salary
6.3% less
9$38.18 hour
$79,413 salary
$34.98 hour
$72,758 salary
8.4% less
10Maximum step for P1, P2, P3$41.10 hour
$85,490 salary
$36.17 hour
$75,230 salary
12.0% less
11Maximum step for P3+, P4, P5$43.27 hour
$90,000 salary
$38.18 hour
$79,413 salary
11.8% less
Centre Manager/Person Responsible K2 $45.28 hour
$94,175 salary
$38.18 hour
$79,413 salary
15.7% less
Senior professional manager teacher K3 $47.75 hour
$99,327 salary
$38.18 hour
$79,413 salary
20.1% less
Senior professional manager K4 in charge of K3 and K2 Managers $51.81 hour
$107,770 salary
$38.18 hour
$79,413 salary
26.3% less

Some additional reasons why pay parity in the ECE sector is a dog’s breakfast:

  1. The first 6 pay parity steps for 2023 were set by the Ministry of Education to reflect the kindergarten teachers’ collection agreement (2019 – July 2022).  But Primary school teachers could win pay increases by next year as their collective contract has expired too.  Of course, the Ministry will offer additional money to kindergarten associations to ensure they can pay their teachers on par with primary teachers – this will leave teachers in every other ECE centre behind – again
  2. A centre could choose not to pay a salary of at least $79,413 or $38.18 hour to those in manager positions but still be eligible for the extended funding. It can cream the funding by giving the position of ‘manager’ to someone who does not hold a current practising certificate. Only the person who is acting as the ‘person responsible in a centre needs to be a certificated teacher, but this person doesn’t necessarily have to be the centre manager.
  3. The current school and kindergarten salary scales are quite a bit higher than the pay parity steps 7 – 11 and the manager pay step(s) that the Ministry of Education have set.  So it really is misleading and hurtful especially for our experienced and highly qualified ECE teachers for the Ministry to talk about teachers having pay parity as it is not pay parity.  It’s what we in the OECE call ersatz pay parity.  ‘Ersatz’ means a replacement for something, like instant coffee replacing barista made coffee.  The replacement is usually cheaper or inferior.

Now should we get started on funding?

From 2005 all education and care centres including kindergartens were funded the same. Teachers in non-kindergarten centres could earn as much as kindergarten teachers.

But this changed in 2011 because of Ministry of Education advice drafted by Simon Laube and colleagues recommending that government make budgetary cost savings by restricting salary cost adjustments in funding to kindergarten associations only. Separate funding rate tables for kindergartens and other education and care centres took effect from 1 July 2011 (see the amounts here).

The Ministry later responded in an OIA request that the reason for separating out kindergartens from the education and care centre funding rate tables was that service providers could not be trusted to pass on funding meant for salaries unless they were kindergarten associations. 

So we responded to this claim by presenting to the Ministry in May 2020 a list of the names of centres (including Beststart) that signed an agreement that in return for the same funding as kindergartens they would pay all their ECE qualified and certificated teachers at least at the same amounts as kindergartens.   

The Ministry of Education never passed this on to Minister Hipkins. The Ministry did not respond in any way or begin work on developing a plan for fairness and equity.

Instead, the Ministry has devoted much time and money to what some might see as playing games.

  • First, it commissioned a company to undertake what was described at the time as being a “complete one-off” industry survey of staff remuneration in  the Early Childhood Education Sector in August 2020. The purpose was to provide a credible, reliable and consistent methodology for analysing the rate of staff remuneration within ECE service providers based on job code comparison so the Ministry could use this information to set pay parity rates and the level of funding to go with these.
  • Then, the Ministry thought of doing a survey itself – a “2021 Pay Parity Staffing Survey”.  It was not surprising it received a poor response from service providers to this.
  • At the start of 2022 the Ministry set-up and funded the costs of a private ‘expert advisory group’.  It’s not even what one would normally regard to be an expert advisory as the Ministry called on people with vested financial interests in the sector (not independent) and predominantly commercial for-profit providers or their representatives. The group has met several times to review pay data provided by services in the 2021 survey, and recommend funding and pay parity rates.

As time has gone by, it’s become abundantly clear that the Ministry is strongly opposed to restoring access to the same funding as kindergartens.

Kindergarten teachers have had pay parity for the last 20 years.

The latest justifications for this stance are that kindergartens don’t charge fees unlike other centres and that kindergartens operate for shorter hours than other centres.  

But don’t the Ministry staff involved in setting policy for ECE pay parity and funding know the facts?   Kindergartens have all re-licensed as full-day services and not sessional as in the past under the old Kindergarten regs. There are ‘kindergartens’ that operate from 7.30am to 5.30pm. The law was changed quite a while back to allow kindergartens to charge fees, which many do outside of the 20 hours and for children under 3 years.

There’s no reason why the Ministry can’t ask centres to attest to paying all teachers on the full salary scale applicable to both kindergarten and school teachers, and even include any conditions such as for leave as specified in the KTCA.  Therefore there is no good rationale for restoring funding to be the same for all teacher-led centres – kindergartens included. 

However, if it means that full and actual pay parity is put in place for all ECE teachers, does it really matter if kindergartens are funded at higher rates than other centres? I’m interested in your opinion on this.

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