SCHOOLS are bracing for the loss of tens of thousands of dollars used to assist poor families with the cost of excursions and textbooks as the Baillieu government’s budget cuts begin to bite.
From this year schools will no longer receive a portion of the education maintenance allowance paid to low-income families. Disadvantaged families will also miss out on the $300 school start bonus for the first time.
Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh said the cuts, which will save $19 million this financial year, would really wound schools. ”It’s a huge concern that is yet to come in and really impact on student learning,” she said.
Schools would lose an average of $10,000. ”Ten thousand dollars is a hell of a cost for some of those small schools – it could be a whole literacy program,” she said.
Disadvantaged parents were previously eligible for the $300 school start bonus when their children started prep and year 7.
To offset the axed bonus, parents with a Health Care Card will be eligible for a slightly higher education maintenance allowance this year.
But schools that previously received half of the allowance will now get nothing.
A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said additional equity funding would be given to state and private schools with high numbers of low socio-economic students.
But many schools that don’t qualify for the equity funding have been left worse off.
Emerald Secondary College will lose an estimated $40,000, which principal Wayne Burgess says is enormous given 40 per cent of parents don’t pay school fees. ”We’re really, really worried … this is going to compound our difficulties,” he said.
Mr Burgess has warned teachers he can allocate only 60 per cent of the normal budget to curriculum areas, with subjects such as woodwork forced to use cheaper materials. ”We’ve been making very good chairs – we might have to cut back on that,” he said.
The education maintenance allowance cuts also contributed to his decision to cancel the QuickSmart literacy and numeracy program, martial arts and a program in which at-risk students or those doing a leadership course spent a day a week at a farm school.
Monbulk College will also lose more than $40,000. ”How we manage that, so students don’t miss out, is something we are still looking at,” said principal Margaret Uren.
She said parents had previously asked that the school’s portion of the education maintenance allowance be used towards the year 7 camp or for textbooks. This year she has suggested parents put aside the federal government’s new Schoolkids bonus for the camp. The school’s welfare budget will be used to buy textbooks to lend to students. ”It’s certainly made it considerably more difficult,” Ms Uren said.
The Victorian Principals Association also warned funding cuts for reading recovery tutors could see the collapse of a crucial program teaching struggling year 1 students to read.
And Ms Leigh said government cuts to subsidies for first-aid training, including travel and accommodation costs, would mean country schools in particular would have to make considerable sacrifices to ensure staff were qualified.
Mr Dixon’s spokesman said schools could choose to employ a reading recovery tutor individually or share a tutor across a cluster of schools. He said first-aid training was funded through school budgets.
Opposition education spokesman James Merlino said the education cuts disproportionately affected the most vulnerable students.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.