A review of kindergarten funding in regional communities is needed according to Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood, who says fund shortfalls for operational costs are putting pressure on kindergartens.
Mr Blackwood said he recently met with Willow Grove Kindergarten which is just one local kindergarten facing challenges in funding its operational costs.
“There is currently a mismatch between the operational costs of running a kindergarten and the funding allocated from state and federal Governments,” Mr Blackwood said.
“This is not money being sought to purchase equipment or pay for activities but a shortfall in funding to cover staff wages and basic operational costs such as power, water and maintenance.
“Small regional kindergartens are the hardest hit by the disparity between operational costs and the often low number of students that attend a kindergarten.
“Last week I met with Willow Grove Kindergarten. This year it has 12 children in its four-year-old program and faces a deficit of more than $10,000.
“A huge challenge for small rural kindergartens is the variation in student numbers that can exist from year to year.
“This year there are 12 children, next year 19 children are already enrolled, but the following year it is projected there will be far fewer students, again leaving a difficult deficit to cover.
To help cover the current shortfall, Mr Blackwood said that families were being asked to pay huge contributions and volunteer time to cover staffing and maintenance needs.
“Parents who rely on Willow Grove Kindergarten pay $1,100 to send their children for the year.
“They also go on a roster to help undertake cleaning and ground maintenance duties to keep operational costs of the kindergarten to a minimum.
“Parents also attempt to raise $10,000 a year from a town with a population of less than 300.
Mr Blackwood said addressing the issue of operational funding would help give security to regional kindergartens and allow them to continue to deliver the outstanding service they already provide.
“Funding that reflects the true cost of running a kindergarten program in these small rural kindergartens and takes into account the burden that only a small number of parents have to share is essential if these programs are going to continue to be delivered in country Victoria,” said Mr Blackwood.