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Open letter to the Minister for Education from the Education Equity Coalition

Open letter to the Minister for Education from the Education Equity Coalition

Thousands of children have started or have returned to school over the last week and many families are noticing the impact of back-to-schools costs on their budgets. However, for many families, the costs associated with state schooling are simply beyond reach. The escalating costs of uniforms, books, stationary, excursions, camps, fundraising and technological requirements – such as computers and tablets – are placing an increasing burden on families.

The Education Equity Coalition is all too aware of this impact as we support those families who simply cannot meet these costs by providing the funding or the materials that they need.

We consistently hear reports of children who miss school camps and excursions because of the costs involved, children who choose to skip school because they do not have the correct uniform, money for the bus fare or even food for lunch. Increasingly we hear of students who choose their elective subjects based on what their family can afford, rather than what they are good at or what they aspire to be later in life.

Our agencies already struggle to meet demand and so we are very concerned about the Government’s decision to completely cut the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from 2015.

The EMA has helped families to cover the costs of uniforms, excursions, camps and information technology at home for over twenty years. It is targeted at families holding healthcare cards and the Victorian Government itself has indicated that around 70 per cent of families sign this payment over to schools which shows that it is a well targeted payment delivering significant assistance to families and schools.

While we commend the Victoria Government’s commitment to Better Schools Funding, we are concerned that this has been at the expense of the EMA. Extra resources are needed in schools, but it still leaves the question of who will support families who struggle to pay for all the great opportunities schools provide.

We know the Victorian Government believes education is the most effective way to support young people to reach their goals and that the Government is committed to providing the best possible education system. We want to support children to go to school and to stay at school but are concerned that the decision to cut the EMA will compound rates of school disengagement.

We are calling on the Victorian Government to continue to provide targeted assistance to families to ensure all children can participate fully in the range of educational opportunities available to them. This should constitute a genuine replacement to the full EMA. We want to work in partnership with Government to develop alternative support measures for families as soon as possible to deliver certainty to families, schools and the community sector upon which Victorians rely in times of need.

Emma King
Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Council of Social Service
Paul McDonald
Chief Executive Officer
Anglicare Victoria
Kim Sykes
Chief Executive Officer
Bendigo Community Health Service
Sandie de Wolf
Chief Executive Officer
Berry Street
Denis Fitzgerald
Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Social Services Victoria
Tenar Dwyer
Chief Executive Officer
Council of Single Mother and their Children
Kate Wheller
Chief Executive Officer
Community Information & Support Victoria
Robyn Roberts
Chief Executive Officer
Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service
Jo Swift
Chief Executive Officer
Kids under Cover
Micaela Cronin
Chief Executive Officer
Mackillop Family Services
Sharron Healy
President Chief Executive Officer
Parents Victoria
David Schmidt
Chief Executive Officer
State Schools’ Relief
Krista Seddon
Coordinator
VicSRC
Gabrielle Leigh
President
Victorian Principals Association
Georgie Ferrari
Chief Executive Officer
Youth Affairs Council of Victoria
Major Mike Coleman
Divisional Commander
Melbourne Central
The Salvation Army
Mandy Burns
Chief Executive Officer
Ardoch Youth Foundation

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