Prepared by Brenda K. Bushouse, July 2008
with funding from the sponsors of the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy
Brenda Bushouse is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she teaches courses on public policy and nonprofit management, and researches early childhood policy. In 2011 she served as a peer reviewer for the New Zealand Early Childhood Education Taskforce. Brenda is the author of many journal articles in both the US and New Zealand and a 2009 book titled, Universal Preschool: Policy Change, Stability and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
During Brenda’s Ian Axford Fellowship exchange to New Zealand she was based at the Ministry of Education in Wellington, where she had an opportunity to compare the creation of publicly funded preschool in New Zealand with the US experience.
The New Zealand government’s total spending on early childhood education increased from $409 million in the year ended June 2002 to an estimated $771 million in the year ended June 2007. This translates to an 88 percent increase, which is a remarkable investment. In the July 2007 the 20 Hours Free Programme began to provide 20 hours of free early childhood education to three- and four-year-olds in teacher-led early childhood services. This programme led to an additional $375 million investment in early childhood education. With the 20 Hours Free Programme, the New Zealand government significantly ratcheted up what already was an enviable level of early childhood investment and made a bold statement that it believes early childhood education is important enough for the government to remove financial barriers to participation for all children.
This report describes the creation of the 20 Hours Free programme within the historical context of early childhood policy in New Zealand. It provides an historical narrative of the actors involved, the timing of events, and competing interests. The report identifies wedge issues to be considered in future policymaking and concludes with recommendation for future research.
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