SOUTH-west school budgets have been thrown into disarray only days into the new year after tens of thousands of dollars worth of funding for low income families was wiped from the books.
Schools are facing budget black holes of more than $10,000 after a component of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was cut.
The EMA is a means-tested government payment to help low income families cover the cost of books, uniforms and excursions.
It was traditionally paid in two allotments, with one portion going to the school and another to families. Families will still receive their payment and can now elect to have it paid directly to the school.
In a further blow, the state government’s school start bonus for children starting grade prep or year 7 has also been dropped.
To offset the axed bonus, parents with a health care card will be eligible for a slightly higher education maintenance allowance. Some are also eligible for a federal government bonus.
But Warrnambool Primary School principal Peter Auchettl said the offsets didn’t go far enough.
“The annual funding available to eligible families has effectively been cut in half,” he said.
“They have cut an annual payment to schools, but raised the payment to parents slightly, with a one-off payment for students starting grade prep and year 7. “That doesn’t go anywhere near covering the six or seven years the students is at school.
“Our school had at least $18,000 in doubt before the school year even began.”
Mr Auchettl also sits on the leadership group for the Warrnambool District School’s Network and said every school in the network would be facing a similar situation.
AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said the cuts were causing considerable concerns among school principals around the state.
Ms Pearce said the restructure to the allowance meant that the EMA bucket of money had been greatly reduced.
“Schools will be forced to cut other programs to help cover this shortfall, which will mean the broadness of the education program available to students will be reduced,” she said
A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said additional equity funding would be given to state and private schools with high numbers of low socio-economic students.