The Government has announced a $170 million pre-Budget boost to help bring early learning teachers' pay in line with their kindergarten counterparts.
The first part of the $170 million bump will increase funding for early childhood education (ECE) teachers from July 1 to keep up with their equivalents in kindergartens, whose pay goes up in bands.
The minimum funding rate will move from $49,862 to $51,358.
The big part of the Budget announcement is the Government will be introducing a new higher funding rate for ECE services that pay their staff at least the first six steps on the kindergarten teacher salary scale.
Another set of higher funding rates will be made available from January 2022, if ECE services agree to pay teachers in line with the first six pay bands of the same collective agreement kindergarten teachers belong to.
Such a change would benefit teachers earning around $50,000 to around $65,000, with some getting increases of as much as 17 percent.
Last year's Budget announcement was about $150 million to do that first step. This one is an additional $170 million.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the pre-Budget boost in Wellington on Wednesday at early learning centre Capital Kids Co-operative in Newtown.
"There's been a big pay gap that's grown over the last decade or so between early childhood education teachers and those who are working in kindergartens. That's grown because the funding rates haven't kept up with increased salary costs," Hipkins said.
"We made a big step towards addressing that last year when we increased the minimum funding rate so that centres who are employing qualified teachers have to pay at least the bottom step on the kindergarten teacher salary scale.
"But that, of course, creates a challenge, because that bottom step on the kindergarten teacher salary scale is about to increase again as they get their next pay increase.
"So the first part of the Budget announcement today is that we will increase the funding again on July 1 to ensure teachers working in early learning centres have their salaries keep up with kindergarten teachers."
Hipkins said it essentially maintains what the Government did last year, ensuring all early learning teachers are earning at least the bottom step of the kindergarten teacher salary scale.
"But we know we need to go significantly further than that. There's 10 steps on the kindergarten salary scale, so getting other teachers to the bottom step really is only the first bit. The next bit is making sure we're starting to catch up," Hipkins said.
"The big part of the Budget announcement is that we will be introducing a new higher funding rate for ECE services that are paying their staff at least the first six steps on the kindergarten teacher salary scale. That significantly moves us towards pay parity.
"Teachers working in non-kindergarten ECE services should, if they've been working for six years, be paid at least what a kindergarten teacher who had been working six years would be. That can see the funding rates move from around $50,000 to around $65,000.
"It moves us well down the track to narrowing, and eventually closing that gap, between ECE teachers working in community-based and private ECE services relative to kindergartens.
"We've got a bit more work to do to refine the funding mechanism to get all the way to the top of the salary scale, because we know that the extra funding rate that we're announcing today isn't quite going to get us there in terms of being able to guarantee that."