Monday, 15 October 2012

Why O'Farrell's Liberal Education Cuts Are Wrong

What is the big hullaballoo about the O'Farrell Liberal Government cutting $1.7 billion from the NSW education system?

There are three reasons why using the knife on education is wrong:

1. In 2011, the Liberal Party went to the State Election promising not cut education.

2. Australia's literacy and numeracy standards are falling and our nation’s school's don’t have the world ranking they used to have.

3. The Gonski Report, a two year independent review of education funding, recommended we needed a $5 billion increase across all levels of education, with one third being funded by the Commonwealth and the rest by the States.

Education is the most significant factor in the development of our children, our communities and our nation. It is a basic human right. And it is the NSW State Government’s responsibility on behalf of our community to improve the quality of education for our children.

Education now comprises 22.4% of the State Budget. The Liberal Government say this is too high. This is what they really think. They also think we need to be governed like a corporation. NSW is not a corporation – it’s a State made up of people. The Liberal State Government must now discharge its obligation to improve a failing education system for our children. Our future depends on it.

In vocational education and training alone this Government will:

· Sack 800 TAFE teachers and support staff.
· Increase TAFE course fees by 9.5%
· Axing the joint training group, which helps to ensure jobs and training for 8,000 apprentices and trainees.
· Almost doubling the cost of concession fees for TAFE courses from $53 to $100.
· Charging commercial rates for courses in non job growth areas.

I only need to quote the education Minister himself, Adrian Piccoli MP, when on 29 September 2009, he said "cuts to TAFE [are] short sighted and failure to invest in education and training in NSW is a failure to invest in our future." He further said: "Studies show that every dollar spent on TAFE returns $6.40 to the economy, so it makes perfect economic sense to invest in vocational training." By ripping off $29 million from this year's TAFE budget, and $24 million from the vocational education and training budget, the Minister’s own figures suggest he is removing almost $340 million from the NSW economy – not a smart move.

The Minister, Mr Piccoli, is not the only member of the now State Government who promised prior to the 2011 election to "Invest in TAFE for a better State pledge." So did the Deputy Premier, the Environment Minister, the Speaker Shelley Hancock and a number of other MP's. They went to the extraordinary extent of signing a written pledge to the people of NSW – a pledge they are now turning their backs on.

My greatest concern with the Government is that its members do not have the intellectual ability to manage the huge responsibilities required of executive government. Has the NSW Government given any thought to the consequences of its actions?

In relation to the $317 million cuts to Independent and Catholic schools, achieved by a four year specific freeze on funding, will mean those schools are incapable of determining exactly how much money they will receive. Because funding is based on student numbers, any increase in the total student numbers will mean funding will actually decrease.

Financial cuts to the public education system will have a devastating outcome because the NSW Government is the prime source of funding for public education. When Mr Gonski recommended increased Government funding, he particularly addressed funding of the public education system. It needed to be increased to insure that "differences in educational outcomes must not be the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions." He said: "Australia had to aspire to have a schooling system that is amongst the best in the world for its quality and equity, and must prioritize support for its lowest performing student."

Mr Gonski said: "Every child should have access to the best possible education regardless of where they live, the income of their family or the school they attend." He warned that no student in Australia should leave school without the basic skills and competency needed to participate in the workforce and lead successful and productive lives.

Yet the 600 jobs that are proposed to be removed from the education system at public schools and regional offices, is not a sacking of bureaucrats or getting rid of waste. It is the dumping of front line support for public school teachers.

Cutting bureaucratic waste must always be supported, but the education system has been so decimated with funding cuts that further unrealistic cuts will mean the numeracy and literacy of our children will continue to fall. And, any diminution of education standards is a blow to our State, its people, its jobs and its economy.                                                                     

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