The 20 Hours Free Early Childhood Education Programme: A USA Perspective

  • Brenda Bushouse


This article provides a comparative perspective on early childhood education (ECE) policy in the USA and New Zealand. The contrast between the two countries is significant. In the USA the federal government funds early childhood education only for the poor and disabled. Some individual states have created their own funding programmes, but again, they primarily target children from low-income families. Only a few provide universal access. By way of contrast, the New Zealand 20 Hours Free programme initiated in 2007 provides 20 hours of free ECE for three- and four-year olds regardless of family income. This article discusses the creation of the programme, starting with its genesis in 2005, and considers what are regarded as “wedge” issues, the controversy over the exclusion of private services and parent/whanau-led services, and the ongoing debate over the restriction on “top-up” fees. In the current global economic crisis, it remains to be seen whether the recently-elected National-led government will continue to fully fund the programme or revert to a subsidy strategy.


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Author Biography

Brenda Bushouse
How to Cite
BUSHOUSE, Brenda. The 20 Hours Free Early Childhood Education Programme: A USA Perspective. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], n. 18, july 2008. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 oct. 2020. doi:


Early Childhood Education