Mums protest for preschool funding
By JULIA ILES
SOME Clarence Valley children are being left without an early education, the result of funding shortfalls to community preschools, it was claimed yesterday.
Clarence Valley community preschools yesterday joined their colleagues around the State in A joint protest action aimed at highlighting the need for additional funding.
Westlawn, Copmanhurst, Coutts Crossing, Lawrence, Jacaranda and Jack n Jill, Maclean and Yamba preschools joined the initiative.
Currently they are forced to fundraise and raise fees just to meet running costs.
Westlawn authorised supervisor Fiona Funnell said preschools around New South Wales were fighting to survive as State Government funding, through the Department of Community Services (DoCS), is frozen at 1989 levels.
"Fundraising is great when you want to get air-conditioners or extras, but we're doing it just to make ends meet," she said.
Westlawn Preschool has reported a deficit in its annual report for the past three years.
"Parents on lower incomes just can't afford the extra expense. What we see is that instead of sending a child two to three days a week they are only coming for one day or not at all," Ms Funnell said.
"Preschool is such an important stage for a child. It's where they develop their foundations in literacy and numeracy as well as social skills."
Copmanhurst Preschool has had to compete with local clubs for fundraising dollars.
"We are such a small isolated community out here and it's difficult for us to compete. Often what happens is parents take their kids to preschool or day care in Grafton and then they go to school in Grafton and don't ever really come back to Copmanhurst," Director of Copmanhurst Preschool Cathy Haynes said.
The activities yesterday revolved around the colour red, with children playing with red toys and staff wearing red clothes.
"It was really a day to talk with parents and to ask them to write to politicians as well as have a play day with red activities," Yamba Preschool director Kerry Hulm said.
According to a Productivity Commission report, NSW has the lowest preschool participation rate in the country at 58 per cent.
The estimated cost per day to educate a preschool child in NSW is $80 the highest in the country. In the Clarence Valley daily fees are on a sliding scale based on income from from $26-$9.
Director of Maclean Preschool Kim Starkey said that although it was sometimes impossible to make the budget balance, it didn't negatively affect the running of the centre.
"Although centres around NSW are in a funding crisis, we are still a very happy well run little place," she said.
MP for Clarence Steve Cansdell, who conducts his yearly fundraiser Pedal for Preschools, attended the protest at Westlawn Preschool.
He said without more funding preschools would simply not survive and that children without an early education were behind the the eight ball.
Mr Cansdell said an impending State Government deficit was no excuse for undercutting preschools.
He said it illustrated mismanagement.