Kindergarten fee rise still a chance

Friday, June 21, 2019

BALLARAT parents face fee hikes of more than $1200 if federal government funding for a national kindergarten program is not renewed.

In September, the federal government revealed it would continue to subsidise the program for four-year-old children to have access to 15 hours of preschool until December this year.

At the time, assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said the Commonwealth would commit $406 million to extend this arrangement for another year to give parents and preschools funding certainty for 2015.

Under the existing arrangement, 10 hours are funded by the Victorian government and five hours by the Commonwealth.

This week, the Municipal Association of Victoria renewed calls for the federal government to continue funding the program.

It came in the wake of the release of a Product Commission report into childcare and early childhood leaning, which found universal access to preschool in the year before a child starts primary school, was a key measure for ensuring successful learning and development in the early years.

City of Ballarat councillor Des Hudson said he feared if federal funding was not continued, parents may be forced to cough up the shortfall or the program may become unviable.

“The obvious implication is that it will have to be subsidised from other areas or the impact will fall back on families,” Cr Hudson said.

He added fee hikes would be an imposition on all families, particularly marginalised members of the community. “Extra fees for anyone who has multiple children that are kinder or school aged knows it would only add increased pressure on the household wages,” Cr Hudson said.

The report recommended that federal government funding for early childhood education should be combined and directed toward three priority areas, including the kindergarten universal access program.

There are 26 kindergartens operating in the City of Ballarat, two of which are run by the council.

MAV’s chief executive Rob Spence said he was hopeful that the federal government would provide long-term funding certainty.

The federal government is is expected to respond to the report before the 2015 budget.

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