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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4872

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (10:57): Not just content with slashing $500 million from Victoria's education sector last year, on Tuesday, 1 May 2012 the Victorian state budget delivered another series of cuts to the education sector. One of these cuts was the slashing of the school proportion of the Education Maintenance Allowance. The EMA provides financial assistance to families on low incomes to help with the cost of essential educational items such as textbooks, stationery, uniforms and excursions.

The electorate of McEwen represents 133 schools, and I have been inundated with letters, phone calls and meetings with school councils, principals and parents, who tell me that these cuts will have another great impact on schools' abilities to deliver services to our most vulnerable students.

I am a firm believer that every child deserves every opportunity to succeed at school no matter where they live or what their socioeconomic circumstances are. The EMA provided support for low-income families and their local schools but, without the schools component, many schools are being left with black holes in their budget.

The Liberals' cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance will hit disadvantaged and rural school communities the hardest at a time when they need support to deliver every opportunity to our kids for their future. We have already seen how the Nationals become the curtailing wimps of the coalition as regional schools and TAFEs get hit the hardest with loss of opportunities and loss of jobs and, while all this is happening, the federal coalition members in this place sit on the sidelines and will not stand up for country kids and their futures.

The Baillieu government has said the discontinuation of the schools component of the EMA will be partially offset by the redirection of equity based funding to schools. This is where the Liberal premier does his sleight of hand, because schools like Sunbury West Primary School and Sunbury College do not receive equity funding, so they will receive nothing.

This cut will impact on schools with students from low-income families, the very people who need the support the most. This Liberal government either does not care or does not understand how important these programs are to many families in the McEwen electorate. It also means that schools in my electorate would also have less access to support services such as counselling and speech pathology.

The Liberal government has also slashed $29 million from funding for school support officers—a program that helps vulnerable students and helps keep them engaged.

The state government, after ripping more than half a billion dollars out of education, says their priority is to build—funnily enough—a $500 million prison. That is the Baillieu government's plan for education in Victoria.

Not just satisfied with kicking low-income families, the Baillieu government has also chosen to dump the School Start program, which supported low-income families with children entering prep or year 7. Given the Baillieu government last year means tested this bonus, this further savage cut will hit hardest families who can least afford it.

I cannot recall any nation or state growing or prospering by slashing their educational opportunities, but this is what the Liberals are expecting Victorians to swallow. Just imagine how things would be if the Liberals got hold of education in the national parliament and, as the shadow Treasurer said, were to end the age of entitlement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! In accordance with standing order 193, the time for constituency statements has expired.