The ALP Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Kate Washington, has joined calls from parents on the Mid North Coast to save their local preschool at Eungai.
Eungai Preschool, one hour north of Port Macquarie, in the State seat of Oxkley and the federal seat of Cowper, is in a funding standoff with the Department of Education.
The now Education and Early Learning Minister, Sarah Mitchell, promised during the election to look into the issue during a campaign visit to the preschool. Since then parents have heard nothing.
The preschool has attracted significant growth in enrollments in recent months, but because funding is calculated based on a census date in August each year, the preschool is yet to receive funding for the additional students.
The preschool estimates that they are owed over $60,000.
The Shadow Minister has written to Minister Mitchell calling for a funding reprieve for Eungai Preschool alongside a review of the census date process so that preschools are funded for their current enrollment.
The preschool has announced that if the funding dispute is not resolved, they will be forced to terminate the enrollment of children who’ve already started preschool.
As a geographically isolated community this would have a significant impact on local parents and families.
Ms Washington said “this is the Education Minister’s first test – will she stand up to her Department and put children and families first, or will the Department continue to rule the roost?
“Eungai Preschool has done exactly what’s been asked of them, they’ve increased their student enrollments. But now the Minister won’t pay for the increased enrollments and the preschool can’t afford to continue.
The Minister visited Eungai Preschool before the election and she spoke with concerned parents. The Minister said she’d look into the issue, but the parents have heard nothing since.
Unless the Minister steps up, Eungai preschool will be forced to reduce its enrollments as of next term leaving local children without access to early education and parents unable to go to work” Ms Washington said.
Andrew Woodward, Labor’s candidate for Cowper stated that “parents in Eungai should be able to rely on the local preschool, but they can’t because the Minister won’t fund the preschool for the students it has.
Eungai Preschool should be congratulated for increasing its enrollments, instead Nationals Minister Sarah Mitchell is punishing them.
This is just another example of the Nationals being yet again bullish in the bush during an election, but silent in Sydney after it” Mr Woodward said.
The above is an ALP Press Release. Monday 15 April 2019.