Government may scrap $840m for preschools
THE Abbott Government is considering abandoning its $840 million program which guarantees four-year-olds receive 15 hours of preschool a week.
The move could see teachers sacked, students’ guaranteed hours cut back, and fees rise.
The option to hand funding responsibility for preschools to the states and territories is proposed in a discussion paper prepared by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The draft paper has been prepared as part of the Federation reform process, which examines funding arrangements between the states and Canberra.
One option on preschools is to hand all responsibilities, including “policy, funding, regulation and service delivery,’’ over to the states and territories when the current funding agreement ends in two years’ time.
“This would mean that states and territories would be responsible for funding the preschool hours delivered in long day care (currently 15 hours per week) with the Commonwealth funding the balance through its fee assistance,’’ the options paper states.
“States and territories would need to increase their expenditure on the sector by around $200 million to maintain current service levels.’’
How the paper reached that figure is not clear, as Canberra is currently funding the program to the tune of $406 million a year. It’s thought the states may pick up some savings to offset the losses because the Commonwealth would take full responsibility for funding childcare.
The emergence of the document threw the Government into a spin, with Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s office referring questions to Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan and the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Prime Minister’s Office referred specific questions back to Mr Pyne.
The options paper says the states taking sole responsibility for preschool could improve accountability and service delivery. However, it warns it was “at odds’’ with recent moves to integrate childcare with “educational elements of the sector’’.
“The option wouldn’t necessarily ensure fairness across the sector as a whole. It could mean some families miss out on a preschool program, particularly the children of working parents, if states and territories decided not to fund preschools in long day care.’’
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office did not directly answer questions, instead saying the $840 million it had committed over two years would deliver 600 hours of funding for preschoolers in 2016 and 2017.
It was revealed the same options paper also canvassed making wealthy parents pay for their children to get a public school education.
But Mr Abbott insisted: “The Australian Government does not and will not support a means test for public education, full stop, end of story”. email@example.com