Fears budget cuts to kinder funding will hit parents' hip pockets hard

VIsit: Ava, Felix, Tiana and Federal Member for Ballarat Catherine King at Buninyong Preschool. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE
VIsit: Ava, Felix, Tiana and Federal Member for Ballarat Catherine King at Buninyong Preschool. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

BALLARAT MP Catherine King has warned that a Federal budget failure to provide ongoing funds for pre-school will be worn by extra payment demands on parents.

Ms King on Sunday hit out at the potential changes during a visit to the new facilities at Buninyong Preschool.

The issue is that the Commonwealth has not committed to fund operational costs of the additional five hours beyond December 2014.

“Now what we are seeing is a huge demand for early childhood education, a recognition of what we are doing in the nought to five years range is critically important to people’s future life chances and parents are absolutely wanting make sure their children have the best chance and best start to life,” she said. 

Currently the state government funds 10 hours of access with the federal government kicking in funding for a further five hours to help more children gain some pre-school education. 

Almost 56 per cent of Australian children are now receiving the 15 hours of preschool education compared with 12 per cent in 2006, according to Ms King. 

“Unfortunately there has been talk that the funding for the 15 hours, that partnership agreement with the states and territories, that funding from the Commonwealth government will not continue to be made available,” she said. 

“We are two weeks away from the federal budget and obviously we are calling on the Abbott government not to take a backward step in early childhood education.”

Ms King said her concern was that you would see far less money coming from the Commonwealth in a number of areas. 

Without continued funding, families face a huge fee hike which would in many cases make kindergarten unaffordable for parents.

Some regional areas are particularly feeling the pressure. 

Golden Plains Shire has the highest percentage of 0-4 year olds in the State. The Shire is experiencing strong population growth as many new families move to the region and this growth drives the need for kindergarten infrastructure and programs.

Golden Plains Shire Council mayor Jenny Blake said the federal government should not rely on councils to pick up the tab.

“Local government cannot continue to fill in these gaps, it is just becoming prohibitive,” Cr Blake said. 

“Residents expect that (council) will provide kindergartens, they expect that we provide those services for their children.”

Director of Community Services Jill Evans said council was responsible for the maintenance and provision of kindergartens in the shire. 

The 2014/15 Golden Plains Shire draft budget has allocated $644,804 for kindergarten funding.