Budget 2023: Government's early childhood policy comes under even more fire from educators

The Government's Budget centrepiece is still being slammed by the early childhood sector, with 90 percent of the industry now telling the Government its 20 hours free care for two-year-olds is unworkable.

The woman in charge of it all - the Education Minister - has found herself in more hot water, being hauled in front of Parliament's powerful privileges committee for misleading statements.

The move to give two-year-olds 20 hours free learning is a paradox.

"It's a catch-22. If we opt in, we go down, we have to close our doors," said Melissa Patterson from Wild at Heart home-based education.

Early childhood providers have to be all in or all out.

"If we opt out to 20 ECE hours, we're not just opting out to two-year-olds, if you're opting out, you opt out to the three-four-year-olds' 20 ECE as well."

But the problem they say is the funding for two-year-olds is too low, so they can't afford to opt-in.

Home-based early learning will get around $5.30 an hour, so an educator with four two-year-olds will earn less than minimum wage.

"It actually effectively means closing down, it won't be feasible to have two-year-olds in our care."

Jo Luxton, the associate Education Minister, said it's something to have a conversation with the sector about. 

"We're open to having a conversation with the sector and we've said that the whole way through."

That conversation is happening this week but the Government won't budge on funding.

"It is up to centres how they determine that they wish to operate within those regulations," said Luxton.

The early childhood policy was the crown jewel in the Budget alongside scrapping $5 prescription fees.

On the day that was announced, Manurewa MP Arena Williams took to Twitter saying it meant her father will never have to choose between heating his bedroom and his prescriptions.

But it turns out Williams' father actually lives with her.

"My point was that he would never have to choose and so I said he would never have to choose," Williams told Newshub.

ACT's David Seymour said she "clearly mislead the public whether intentionally or otherwise" and "it's a disgrace".

But the one in serious trouble for misleading statements is Education Minister Jan Tinetti.

"It is an important principle that the House can trust the accuracy of ministerial replies," Speaker Adrian Rurawhe said.

The Education Minister was on Tuesday referred to Parliament's court - the powerful Privileges Committee - for saying this in February: "I can categorically tell that Member that the Ministry of Education is responsible for the data. I have no say over that."

Tinetti is referring to Term 3 attendance data.

Earlier this month Newshub revealed her office did have a say over the data - we obtained documents showing they stalled the ministry to time the data release with a truancy announcement.

She was forced to correct the record. But the Speaker wants a ruling on whether "the delay in correcting an inaccurate statement in this instance amounts to contempt".

A serious allegation that the Privileges Committee will decide on.