It can?t be done: preschools call for funding increase
By ADRIAN MILLER and SALLY GORDON
THE Clarence Valley's community-based preschools are set to join a statewide day of protest to highlight the 'deplorable' levels of funding they receive from the Iemma Government.
With funding frozen at 1987 levels and with NSW parents paying the highest preschool rates in Australia, parents and preschool operators are calling on the Government to urgently review funding levels.
Westlawn Preschool authorised supervisor Fiona Funnell said many community-based preschools struggled to make ends meet.
"Lots of budgets we make are impossible and it's very difficult for parents on our management committees to make the budgets balance," she said.
"Most years we wonder if we are going to come out in the black and our management committees struggle and worry about that all year because the next year's funding depends on if you are financially viable."
Around 800 community-based preschools ? which are not-for-profit organisations ? throughout NSW are funded by the Department of Community Services and receive, on average, $70,000 per year.
This compares to roughly 100 preschools which are attached to primary schools, who are funded by the Department of Education and Training, and receive around $240,000 every year.
Mrs Funnell said parents were forced to pay up to $30 a day for preschool, whereas parents in areas such as Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT, only pay around $5 per day.
Figures released by the Federal Government show only 59 per cent of NSW children attend preschool, compared to 100 per cent in Tasmania, 98 per cent in Queensland and 96 per cent in Victoria.
The Copmanhurst Child Care Centre currently has five or so fundraising drives on the go to ensure the facility can stay open for two days a week.
The situation for parents is desperate and has been gradually worsening since the preschool opened seven years ago.
Mother of three, Larissa Cummins, said if Copmanhurst Preschool closed, her sons, Andrew and Michael would have to forgo early childhood education.
"It's shocking, we need this preschool to stay open because there's no other preschool in the area and we'd have to drive to town otherwise," she said.
"We can't afford to drive the kids into town, it would mean they wouldn't be going to any preschool at all.
"We're constantly fundraising, constantly filling out grant forms, talking to local MP Steve Cansdell and Department of Community Services, and basically pleading to keep it open."
Mrs Funnell said the Clarence Valley Protest Play Day, set down for April 11 from 9.30 am to 11.30am, would take place at Westlawn, Lawrence and either Yamba or Maclean community preschools. She urged all parents to support the action and to wear red to help highlight the financial plight of the preschools.