Preschool hours may be cut by up to five hours a week, with the Federal Government tipped to slash its share of kindergarten funding in Tuesday’s Budget.
State governments have forecast reduced funding for four-year-old kinder from next year, because federal cash has not yet been committed.
The cuts would reduce kinder hours from fifteen hours to twelve in South Australia and ten in all other states. Parents may also face rising fees to cover any shortfall if the Federal Government fails to continue its present commitment of $158 million over eighteen months.
At the moment, most state governments pay for ten hours of four-year-old kindergarten and the Commonwealth pays for five. The South Australian Government pays for eleven hours. Hours were increased to fifteen with help from federal cash in the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education program, started in 2013 as part of an agreement with the former Labor government.
Victoria announced a $9.4 million cut to early childhood eduction in this week’s Budget because of an expected federal funding reduction, says the Herald Sun.
Last month, South Australian Education Minister Jennifer Rankine told the Adelaide Advertiser reducing preschool hours would disadvantage children. “We’ve rearranged the whole system to ensure that each child gets fifteen hours preschool in the twelve months preceding going to school,” she told the paper.
Advocacy group The Parenthood has started a petition, already signed by more than 1500 parents, urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to maintain the funding. The agreement is due to expire at the end of this year.
Executive director Fiona Sugden says federal, state and territory education ministers met in Canberra last month but were silent on the future of the program used by more than a quarter of a million preschoolers.
“The early years of our children’s lives are the most formative for their intellectual, emotional and social development. Taking away kindy and preschool funding would not give our children the education they need to prepare them for formal schooling,” Ms Sugden says.