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New funding offer as kindy row drags on

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A six-month standoff between the states and Commonwealth over pre-school funding could be nearing resolution, with the Federal Government today “re-announcing” its original $840 million offer to subsidise an extra half-day’s kindergarten tuition.

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As InDaily reported last month, former Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced in May the Commonwealth would provide $840 million over two years to continue to top up pre-school programs across Australia, with the current arrangement expiring at the end of this term.

But no agreement was ever signed by the states, leaving parents and staff in the dark about whether children will be able to attend kindergarten for two days or two and a half next year.

The stand-off has thrown planning for 2016 into chaos, with kindies across South Australia holding information sessions with families enrolled for next term, but still unable to guarantee 15 hours a week of tuition.

New Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who was unaware of the standoff when InDaily contacted him last month, today reconfirmed an offer of $840 million “to ensure that all Australian children have access to 15 hours of high-quality pre-school education in the year before they start school”.

The new offer is for an “extended agreement” that “clearly sets out agreed benchmarks to encourage and reward states and territories that demonstrate improved enrolments and access to pre-school programmes”.

It will also require states and territories to “support pre-school programs in long-day-care centres as well as dedicated government and community pre-schools”.

State Education Minister Susan Close told InDaily“Once we have had time to scrutinise this new offer, and confer with the other states and territories, I will move as quickly as possible to finalise the agreement.”

“South Australian parents need certainty so they can plan what is an exciting and important year in their child’s life,” she said.

The State Government had baulked at the original funding offer as it “required states to achieve the full 95 per cent attendance rate to receive funds (and) many states would struggle to meet this and potentially lose millions of dollars”.

The Weatherill Government also suggested the NSW Liberal Government had orchestrated the standoff with Canberra, recently confirming “NSW Premier Mike Baird wrote to the Prime Minister expressing concern about negative impacts of the proposed payment structure (and seeking) funding in proportion to the degree to which performance indicators are met”.

A Baird Government spokesman told InDaily discussions with the Commonwealth about a new national partnership agreement were “ongoing”.

Birmingham wrote to all state and territory governments late yesterday, detailing the terms of a revised offer.

“The Commonwealth now calls on the states and territories to sign up to the agreement, to provide certainty to families and services ahead of the 2016 school year,” he said.

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