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Some parents could pay more for early childhood education under changes that will be announced in Thursday's budget, Prime Minister John Key says.
The Government has promised to maintain the 20 hours free early childhood education introduced by Labour, but it says the cost of the scheme is rapidly increasing and it has to deal with that.
There has been speculation that parents currently getting 20 hours free will continue to receive it but newcomers could be affected by the changes in the budget.
Labour says any means testing of parents would be a broken election promise, and Education Minister Anne Tolley is refusing to comment.
But Mr Key told reporters today: "All I can tell you is that some parents may be affected in the budget but certainly not the majority... some may pay more."
Mr Key said it had to be recognised that there had been a very large increase in the cost of the scheme.
"We are trying to tackle the ballooning cost, but with the recognition that we want every New Zealander to be able to participate in early childhood education," he said.
Mrs Tolley has previously said the cost of providing the subsidy had nearly trebled over the last five years and was projected to continue rising at about $200 million a year.
She has also said there is unequal uptake, with poor families losing out.
That raised the speculation about means testing, which could mean that families with income a certain level would have to pay but those on low incomes would not.