Preschools across the state joined together yesterday to protest at proposed changes to early education funding.
Staff, parents and children at community preschools and childcare centres in NSW held a "red day of action" to argue against the state government's plan to scrap funding for three-year-old students.
Protesters also gathered at Parliament House yesterday to urge the government to invest more in early childhood education.
Under the proposed changes, government funding for community preschools will be targeted at four- and five-year-olds in their year before school.
Funding will only be available for three-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In March, the state government said the funding changes would save parents an annual $400 in the city and about $1000 in regional areas, but Community Child Care Co-operative chief Leanne Gibbs said the daily fee could double for three-year-olds not from a disadvantaged background.
Margaret Gleeson, director at Keiraville Community Preschool, said three-year-olds accounted for 25 per cent of enrolments. Other preschools have estimated three-year-olds account for between 30 and 50 per cent of their students.
Students at Keiraville pay $45 a day regardless of their age.
Ms Gleeson said fees would increase if three-year-olds were no longer funded, but could not predict by how much.
"If they cut the funding to three-year-olds, the fees will have to go up to such a level that families will not be able to afford to send their three-year-olds to preschool," she said.
"For lots of community-owned preschools it threatens their viability because they have traditionally enrolled three-year-olds as well as children in their year before school."
Ms Gleeson said cutting funding for their youngest students would be detrimental and could result in reduced enrolments.
"All of the research shows that children really benefit from time in preschools before going to school and one year is just not enough."
In a letter sent to preschools this week, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli said "funding to early childhood education is not being cut" and the proposed changes would target money to where early learning had "the greatest impact".
"The current funding system that supports our community preschools ... is inefficient, complicated and does not focus on achieving our objectives for early childhood education."
He said services with lower funding under the new plan would be provided with additional funding to help make the transition.
A Department of Education spokesman said the 2013-2014 state budget for early childhood education and care was $301 million, $72 million more than the previous year.