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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9323

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (20:13): I speak in support of this motion moved by the member for La Trobe. The member for Riverina has spoken on this motion, but I ask the question, 'Where are the Victorian Liberals?' Whilst the member for Riverina might want to talk about some issues with federal funding, this motion is actually about state funding, and in particular, it is about state funding that has been ripped off from local schools and taken away from parents. Although the member for Riverina says that education delivery for students and parents will be better under a Liberal coalition government, we have one of those in Victoria and I can tell the House that parents, students and schools are far worse off under a Liberal coalition government.

In 2006, the Victorian state Labor government delivered on a commitment to help families with children starting school at prep or year 7 by introducing School Start Bonus. This $300 payment has helped families pay for items, such as uniforms and textbooks, at the time when these expenses hit the hardest. Most parents know that when their child starts school, or moves from primary to secondary, that is the time when the bills really start rolling in. And it is quite simple to see why. The expense of sending a child to school year to year does not go away, but starting a new school certainly means that the expense goes up, whether it be new uniforms, new books or new ways of getting to school. Ask any parent who has a child at school and they will tell you.

But of even greater concern is the slashing of the education maintenance allowance by the Baillieu Liberal government. This payment that was previously paid to parents with a healthcare card and, importantly, to the school that their children attended has been trashed. Schools that relied on this funding of around $117.50 for a primary student and $235 for a secondary student now receive no funding at all from the education maintenance allowance. Some schools stand to lose up to $80,000 in funding, as reported in the Age on 27 May 2012 in an article entitled 'Poorer students to miss out'. This funding has allowed schools to help out families who could not afford the necessary uniforms and school equipment, to help ensure that all students had a chance of a good education. Frank Sal, from the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said:

Much of the restructuring of government school funding seems to have been extremely underhanded.

And in that article he was talking particularly about Victoria.

Cuts to the EMA and the School Start Bonus are a discrimination against students who come from poor families, and this budget grab of $19 million by the Victorian Liberal government is typical of the attitude of the born-to-rule. As an example, I would like to talk about a school in my electorate, Ringwood Secondary College, which is a very large, highly regarded and highly popular school, with parents from many kilometres around trying to send their children there. Ringwood also takes a lot of very local students who come from an area that is low SES. They have sent a letter out to parents which says:

Essentially, whereas the EMA was paid half to the parent and half to the school, next year the total EMA payment will be made to the eligible parent directly. It will be the responsibility of the eligible parent to forward this money to the school to pay for subject materials et cetera.

They then have a very helpful table of the 2012 school year versus the 2013 school year. The letter goes on to say that in 2012, the School Start Bonus, available if you have a student starting in year 7, is $300. In 2013, not applicable—zero. The EMA school portion in 2012, $235 and the EMA parent portion in 2012, $235—a total of $470. But in 2013, the EMA school portion has been cancelled—no money; and the EMA parent portion is $300, or for a student in year 8 and up to 16-year-olds, $250. So that is $250 or $300 compared to $470 for the previous year.

Importantly, Ringwood Secondary College in 2012 was able to enter into agreement with parents to facilitate the payment of subject materials, computers, equipment and/or general charges prior to commencing as funds go into the school. But in 2013 the secondary college is unable to help with the payment of subject material, computers, equipment and/or general charges as no EMA funds will come to the school—not a dollar. In summary, this means that a parent of a year 7 student eligible for EMA will be able to draw on $777 with the School Start Bonus and EMA in 2012 and this figure will fall to $300 in 2013. A parent of a student from year 8 up to the age of 16 will be able to use $470 in 2012—which will fall to $250 in 2013. These changes mean a big deal for our local students. Students who need the money most are being deprived. It is an outrage. It should be stopped. I call on the Victorian Liberal Party to withdraw it. (Time expired)