Brandenburg’s state government wants to implement important improvements in childcare despite the current freeze on the daycare law reform. This was emphasized by Minister of Education Britta Ernst (SPD) on Thursday in the state parliament in Potsdam. “Good day-care center policy is our focus,” says Ernst. There is no “complete standstill”, as is sometimes suggested in the debates about the form of daycare.
The staffing ratio in daycare centers is to be improved from 1:4.65 to 1:4.25 by August 2024 and to 1:4 by August 2025. On August 1, 2023, after the last year of daycare, the penultimate year before starting school will also be free of charge. One year later, families should no longer have to pay anything for the entire kindergarten sector, i.e. care for children from the age of three.
According to Ernst, one third of parents in the state already pay nothing for childcare, either because the child will soon start school or because parents who receive social benefits or earn very little are exempt from fees anyway. The state is spending 149 million euros on improving the childcare ratio and 66 million euros on exempting parents from paying fees.
Another innovation relates to daycare. In the future, daycare mothers or fathers will be able to team up in twos or threes and care for children together. This will facilitate substitution in the event of illness or vacation. Brandenburg is thus creating one of the most modern laws in Germany for the care of children in day care, Minister Ernst had explained.
Regardless of this, there is great resentment among those affected by the halt to the reform. On Wednesday, parallel to the state parliament session, parents, educators and daycare providers again demonstrated in front of the state parliament to increase the pressure on the state to continue the reform. On Thursday, the state parliament then approved a draft resolution of the education committee with the votes of the SPD, CDU and Greens: Minister Ernst is called upon to resume talks with the county council.
In March, Ernst had put the important reform project of the red-black-green coalition on hold because the districts, as the bodies responsible for youth welfare, had complained about being overburdened. The Corona crisis and the reception of refugees from Ukraine left the municipalities no time to continue working on the reform.
The main aim of the reform is to revise the non-transparent financing of daycare centers and to ensure that parental contributions are calculated as uniformly as possible throughout the state. The opposition criticized the coalition for not specifying when the reform would be implemented. The left-wing parliamentary group had proposed that the new daycare law be passed by the state parliament in this legislative session by the end of 2024. As in the education committee, the left-wing proposal failed to win a majority.
It is not fair to go with a date into new discussions with districts and municipalities, said Minister Ernst. “That we have the goal of getting something off the ground and creating something in this election period, I can assure for the coalition and the state government,” she stressed. Kathrin Dannenberg, the education policy spokeswoman for the left-wing parliamentary group, expressed doubts that excessive demands had been the only reason for the districts to pull out of the reform process. “It’s a lack of trust in the state government,” Dannenberg said. The counties were afraid that the reform would force them to dig even deeper into the municipal coffers, she said.
Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem