Kibiz in the bag

The Dusseldorf state government wants to increase kindergarten places for under-threes by 2013 from 16.000 to 144.000 by 2013. This was announced by Family Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) on Wednesday during the second reading of the controversial Child Education Act (Kibiz) in the state parliament. Laschet appealed to the churches, which account for more than half of the 9.500 daycare centers in NRW to participate in the expansion of places for young children. Only then, he said, was the reduction in their share of sponsorship from 20 to 12 percent justified.

The opposition factions of the SPD and the Greens sharply criticized the Kibiz, which was passed in the state parliament on Thursday after its third reading and will be introduced at the beginning of the next kindergarten year on 1. August 2008 is to come into force. The minister reiterated the state government's intention to introduce a legal entitlement to a childcare place for all two-year-olds as of the 2010/2011 kindergarten year. According to a survey conducted by the German Youth Institute, around 75.000 parents in NRW make use of it. At present, there are only 16 in Germany's most populous state.000 places for children under three. This puts NRW at the bottom of the league table in the federal government.Laschet emphasized that after long negotiations with the two churches, the six welfare associations and the three municipal umbrella organizations, he had reached agreement on all substantial points of Kibiz. "We look at the individual child and not at entrenched structures" that had been established in kindergartens for decades under the previous red-green government, the minister explained.Andrea Asch, the Greens' spokeswoman on children's policy, accused the coalition parties of the CDU and FDP of failing to anchor the planned legal entitlement in Kibiz. "They deceive the public and throw sand in their eyes. Your legal entitlement is merely a declaration of intent," said Asch, addressing the government factions. Of the child education law announced as large throw "nothing remained".Family Minister Laschet had failed with his original goals and had failed with a decisive question for the future of the state. Asch literally: "Kibiz is Murks."Speakers from the SPD opposition also expressed criticism of the child education law. "With this law on childcare and savings, NRW is getting what is probably the worst kindergarten law in Europe," said Wolfgang Jorg, youth policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group. The financially inadequate law set the state's kindergarten policy "back 30 years". Deputy SPD parliamentary party leader Britta Altenkamp predicted that Kibiz would prove "unsuitable" in its implementation. "This is the beginning of the end of this state government."The FDP coalition partner, which had successfully pushed for changes to Kibiz during the legislative consultation, defended the family minister. The red-green opposition has "stoked fears, unsettled providers and put parents on edge" with "disinformation and ideological fog" about the Kibiz, according to the children's policy spokesman for the FDP state parliamentary group, Christian Lindner. By introducing a budget for the facilities, the new law gives the providers "a high degree of planning security" and guarantees "a binding pedagogical standard" through the parameters for the sizes of the daycare groups with between 18 and 22 children. Lindner acknowledged that the Kibiz may well have a different impact locally.With 9.500 facilities in 396 cities and municipalities, the kindergarten landscape in NRW is "highly differentiated".Earlier this week, the Institute of the German Economy in Cologne had concluded in a state parliament hearing that municipalities needed additional funding to expand early childhood education. It is "questionable" whether they will succeed in refinancing their kindergarten costs of 19 percent via the parents' contributions, as provided for in Kibiz. The institute recommended to the members of the state parliament to increase the expenditure per child in early childhood education, to strive for a higher qualification of the kindergarten teachers and to abolish the parental contributions in the last two kindergarten years before school enrollment.

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