Early childhood funds welcome
The Federal Government recently announced funding for Victorian children to receive early childhood education through to 2019, with $440 million nationally for 15 hours kindergarten each week for four-year olds.
Since 2013, the Federal Government has funded five hours per week for Victorian pre-schoolers, while the Victorian Government contributes funding towards the other 10 hours per week.
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) president Mary Lalios said that while the exact funding details for Victoria are still unclear, this announcement comes as a great relief for families, kindergartens and councils who can now plan ahead for 2019 with more certainty.
‘‘We are particularly pleased that Minister Birmingham has for the first time committed the Commonwealth to work with state governments on an enduring policy beyond 2019,’’ Ms Lalios said.
‘‘Short-term funding arrangements have made it difficult for Victorian services and families to plan as they continue to face uncertainty about the cost and availability of preschool from year to year. We welcome governments working together to develop a longer-term funding solution.
‘‘Extension of Commonwealth funding to continue providing 15 hours of kindergarten for Victoria’s children was strongly supported in the ‘Lifting the Game’ report released last week. High-quality early childhood education is linked with higher levels of employment, income and financial security, improved health outcomes and reduced crime — it helps build the skills children will need for their lifelong learning and securing future employment.’’
Ms Lalios said Victorian communities already contributed 35 per cent of the cost of preschool through fees, fundraising and local government support, including more than $300 million of ratepayer funds invested by councils in the past four years to deliver 15 hours of kindergarten from council facilities.
‘‘Permanent funding for four-year-old kindergarten is essential to spare parents potentially unaffordable increases in kindergarten fees or additional childcare costs,’’ Ms Lalios said.
‘‘An extra 1200 teachers and educators were trained and employed to deliver the 15 preschool hours. This funding extension and an enduring policy is good news for children and families, but also a relief to councils. It will prevent job losses and councils potentially withdrawing their support and extensive roles in kindergarten planning, facility and service provision.
‘‘Close work would continue with the Victorian Government on the roll-out of a four-year project to enhance and expand councils’ kindergarten central enrolment processes beyond 2019. The MAV would also continue to advocate for councils to be adequately funded for the different ways they support kindergartens — such as planning, facility provision and central enrolment.’’
There are currently 458 children enrolled in Mitchell Shire’s kindergarten services (including 402 in fouryear-old kinder and 56 in three-year-old kinder), while council employs 65 early childhood kindergarten staff.
Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said kindergarten is the beginning of a child’s education journey and is a fantastic opportunity for children to learn, play, socialise and grow.
‘‘We know early education has many proven benefits for children and can be linked with higher levels of employment and health outcomes in later years,’’ Cr Sanderson said.
‘‘Funding for kindergartens is extremely important to a lot of families, who may not always be able to afford fees and costs. Our community is rapidly growing and with many new families coming to the area now and into the future, it’s really important that children have the best start in life and are not restricted by early education costs.
‘‘Council welcomes the certainty this funding announcement brings to families in our community regarding the costs and availability of four-year-old kinder positions until 2019, and we hope to see this funding continue recurrently. Thanks to the Federal and State governments for investing in our community.’’