The Guardian August 9, 2000


Protest for pre-school

For the past ten years funding for Victoria's pre-schools has been 
reduced while fees paid by parents have escalated (resulting in many 
children missing out on pre-school and so being disadvantaged when they 
start school).

The workloads for parents and teachers have become excessive and there is a 
critical pre-school teacher shortage caused by salary levels which are 30 
percent below their primary and secondary teacher colleagues.

This was the situation which sparked mass action on July 27 when Dallas 
Brooks Hall, in East Melbourne, overflowed with more than 2,000 teachers, 
parents, children and community members protesting against pre-school 
underfunding.

Buses arrived from Geelong, Ballarat, Lilydale, Knox, Berwick, Whittlesea, 
Greensborough and several other locations with angry but determined 
teachers.

The sheer number of those present at the rally indicated that they were not 
persuaded by the Government's last minute public announcements that an 
additional $4 million had been made available to pre-schools.

Just as well, as this was not new money but funding which was allocated in 
the state budget and which has not yet appeared in pre-school funding 
cheques.

Nor were teachers deterred by the salary offer of two lots of three percent 
payments plus a "one off" $1,400 goodwill payment.

Nowhere did the Minister acknowledge the need to stop the growing pay 
inequity and make a down payment to pre-school teachers as an indication of 
the genuine value the Government says it places on pre-school teachers.

The guest speakers spoke graphically of the urgent need for the Government 
to act immediately to relieve the plight of pre-schools. A resolution was 
carried unanimously by the meeting.

Despite the cold weather, marchers proceeded to No 1 Treasury Place and 
cheered and chanted whilst a very withered plant, the pre-school "Tree of 
Learning", was presented to a delegation of senior government bureaucrats 
representing the Premier (who was unavailable) and the absent Minister for 
Community Services (who was in New Zealand).

Preschool parent Deborah Lovett spoke enthusiastically about the need for 
continued momentum and absolute determination to keep the campaign and our 
demands in the forefront of the minds of members of the community, and 
square in the face of the Government.

The Australian Education Union noted that if the strength of the reaction 
of thousands of parents and teachers was anything to go by, the next phase 
of the campaign  four weeks of local campaigning  will be spectacular.

The union warned the Premier and the Minister they would be unwise to 
ignore the depth of anger and frustration and be even more foolhardy not to 
act.

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Acknowledgments: AEU News

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