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Budget funding for early childhood education underwhelming

EARLY CHILDHOOD COUNCIL: Budget funding for early childhood education underwhelming

The Early Childhood Council (ECC) says the 1.6% Budget increase announced for early childhood education centre universal funding is significantly underwhelming.

Early childhood education (ECE) centres are to receive $104.8 million increase in funding over the next four years, beginning in January 2019. This funding is for the Universal Funding and 20 hours.

The ECC calculates this averages out at about $12,000 extra for each childcare centre a year.

ECE will also receive $483.1 million operating funding over four years to meet increased demand for services.

The Early Childhood Council Chief Executive Officer, Peter Reynolds, says ECE has been under-funded over the last 10-years. The previous government made significant cuts to the per-child rate of funding, putting services under incredible pressure.

“Many of those services have struggled on in the hope that this new Government would do something about it. They haven’t. I truly fear for the future of a number of childcare centres operating close to the breadline,’ Mr Reynolds says.

“Of course we recognise the Government has to spend across portfolios, and one Budget cannot fix the neglect. However, we have been hearing how important the early years are, and how important education is, and yet the funding announced today doesn’t sit with that rhetoric. This small increase is of course welcomed, but it doesn’t even keep up with inflation,” Mr Reynolds says.

Many of these services operate in communities where parents cannot afford to keep paying more and more. At the end of the day, it is these families and their children that will suffer most, if services have to cut back more or close their doors.

“Our sector also has a well-recognised teacher shortage and we have seen nothing here that will address that, the focus continues to be on schools,” Mr Reynolds says.

The Government has signalled an additional 1,500 teachers for schools, but nothing to address the critical shortage of qualified teachers in the early childhood sector.

“Early Childhood services are also nervous about the Government’s signals around increasing teacher pay rates. While we all agree teachers should be paid more, the current claim of a 16% pay increase in the face of a 1.6% subsidy rate increase is frightening for the additional pressure it will put centres under,” Mr Reynolds says.

“This Budget forces down quality. It will further drive centres to think long and hard about how many qualified teachers they can afford to hang on to if wages go up by 16% and Government funding only increases by 1.6%.”

The ECC has welcomed the increase in funding for learning support in ECE, which is much needed.

The Early Childhood Council is a not-for-profit membership body that represents the interests of almost 1,200 community-owned and privately-owned early childhood centres.

As well as ensuring the childcare centre voice is heard by education policy decision makers, the ECC provides our members with professional development opportunities, tools and support.

ENDS

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