Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar MP has lashed out at the Palaszczuk Government for callously disregarding the plight of remote children whose families are struggling to keep them at boarding school due to the impact of drought and floods.
Mr Millar had asked Minister Grace Grace in a Question on Notice to increase the living away from home allowances paid to remote families to help fund the education of children who have no school to attend.
“Let’s be clear. This is only paid to those families who live to far from a school that they physically cannot attend school. It has always been an equity measure to ensure equal access to education for every Queensland child,” said Mr Millar.
“The gap between the subsidy and what is being charged has become larger and larger. We are hearing reports of drought affected and flood affected families having to withdraw their children from schools and this gap is a good starting place when looking for cause.
“They are funding the gap while having no income, in many cases for years.”
Mr Millar said he resented the implication that the gap was somehow caused by the schools parents were choosing.
“All school fees leave a sizeable gap. The cause of the gap is not the parents’ choice. The cause is the Government’s neglect in failing to keep the payment aligned with the fees,” he said.
Mr Millar said the suggestion that families use state-run boarding schools was spurious.
“There are only two such campuses. One is in Dalby and one is in Mt Isa. Both of these are miles from Gregory with limited transport options between there and home.”
Mr Millar said that while the Schools of Distance Education did an excellent job, many families felt, especially in a student’s secondary schooling, their children need the peer group experience and the broad subject range only a school can offer.
“This prepares our children to cope with living away from home for university or TAFE. These are our future doctors and nurses, pharmacists and vets, lawyers and accountants. These are our computer gurus, our mechanics and our tradies. We need them educated so they can bring those skills back home to us.”
Mr Millar said that while he commended the Minister for writing to her federal counterpart seeking federal assistance for counselling, tuition and boarding fees for families of students at independent and catholic schools who had been affected by drought and flood, this was essentially beside the point of the question.
“I am about restoring the living away from home allowances to a level that ensures equity of education for remote children at all times. This is a state responsibility and cannot be shifted to the federal government.”
• Answer to Question on Notice 127 tabled today
• Member for Gregory asked if Minister would address the widening gap between boarding school tuition fees and the allowances paid by the State Government
• Minister says No and implies families choices to blame
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