10 Apr 2014
In the lead up to tomorrow's meeting between Commonwealth, state and territory education ministers, pressure is mounting on the Abbott Government to keep its promise on preschool and kindy education funding.
Federal funding is crucial to delivering 15 hours of quality education to around 235,000 Australian children in the year before school - but the Abbott Government has refused to commit to the $470 million needed to keep services open next year.
"Every single family with a child in preschool or kindy will be hit if this funding is not maintained," Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis, said.
Tomorrow's Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood meeting is the last before the federal budget, making it the deadline for the Commonwealth to commit to funding beyond this year.
Today the Liberal Victorian Government has joined the Liberal Government in New South Wales to demand support for preschool and kindy services continue. But Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley, has said she doesn't think preschool and kindy services are a Federal responsibility.
"The signs are ominous - the Abbott Government is paving the way for cuts, by dismissing preschool as not their responsibility," Kate Ellis said.
"Cutting universal access funding will force services to close, reduce hours and put up fees."
"It will also put even more pressure on child care waiting lists and prices."
Before the election Tony Abbott promised not to cut education:
TONY ABBOTT: There will be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to pensions, no change to the GST (5 September 2013).
"Slashing preschool and kindy funding would be a shocking and brazen broken promise," Kate Ellis said.
"Not only will cutting preschool and kindy services leave parents in the lurch, it will have huge future costs."
Australian studies show children who attended preschool or kindy go on to score significantly better in Year 3 NAPLAN tests. This is also backed up by international research that shows Australian students with one year of pre-primary education achieve more highly in Year 4 reading, maths and science.
"The early years are the most important in a child's development," Kate Ellis said.
"These cuts will costs out education system and our economy a lot more in the long run; leaving Australian children to slip between the cracks."
In 2008, before Labor introduced universal access funding for preschool and kindy, just 12 per cent of Australian children received 15 hours or more of quality education in the year before school. In 2012 that figure had risen to over 56 per cent.
"Tony Abbott looks set to return us to the situation we had under the Howard Government - where just 1 in 10 Australian children has access to 15 hours of preschool per week," Kate Ellis said.
"It's time Tony Abbott actually listened to his state Liberal colleagues - they know how important preschool and kindy are."