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Public funding, private delivery: States, markets, and early childhood education and care in liberal welfare states – A comparison of Australia, the UK, Quebec, and New Zealand

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White, Linda A. & Friendly, Martha
Publication Date: 
1 Aug 2012



Early childhood education and care (ECEC) spending and enrollment levels have increased in a number of liberal welfare states over the past two decades as part of a social investment strategy aimed at delivering long term economic and human capital benefits. Comparative evidence from social investment experiences in Australia, the UK, Quebec, and New Zealand suggests, however, that governments have made choices about financing and delivery of services that do not match these human capital development goals. Generally high quality ECEC services that would yield those expected human capital benefits have not developed because of the kinds of investments that are being made - particularly government reliance on private providers without strong regulatory regimes capable of ensuring high quality services. The article demonstrates that public investment in ECEC programs requires much greater consideration of the relationship between public finance, public regulation or ‘‘governance’’, and program delivery mechanisms.