The Honourable Barry O’Farrell MP
Minister for Western Sydney
Dear Mr O’Farrell,
The New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council (SPC) expresses our strong opposition to the NSW State Government’s announced funding cuts to the essential service of education. The Gonski review clearly identified a need to invest in education by $6.5 billion in today’s terms to attain and maintain a competitive international position. Under your savage cuts NSW state education will be doubly underfunded. We urgently seek a meeting with yourself, Minister Piccoli and our colleagues from The New South Wales Primary Principals’ Association (PPA) to discuss the funding cuts.
There are three contexts in which your decision should be seen: The first is Local School Community decision making. You will be aware that we have been in productive discussions with both the Minister and the Director-General of Education about the implementation of greater local decision-making. While principals have expressed support in principle about some of the benefits of Local Schools, Local Decisions and expressed reservations about other aspects, both of our organisations have been prepared to work with the Government and the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC) to ensure that implementation will be effective and not be accompanied by, or lead to, cuts in funding to Public Education.
In effect, your projected reductions in funding have cut the ground from under those who have, in good faith, participated in these consultations. Clearly even those principals who have supported Local Schools, Local Decisions will be rethinking their position. Both the SPC and PPA organisations are similarly placed; while we have given measured support to the opportunity to make more local decisions with, and on behalf of school communities we cannot continue that support to any positive effect in the context of reduced funding.
The second context is the Gonski review. Our organisations have applauded the commitment of your government to implementing the Gonski recommendations, a commitment which has made NSW a leader amongst the other States. As you know, the Review found that education across Australia was underfunded by around $6.5 billion in today’s terms. If such funding is going to be found, the NSW share of that amount is comparable to the amount that the government is now proposing to cut from our schools. Given that much of the $6.5 billion will come from the Australian Government it is unsurprising that even the most casual observer will view your proposed cuts with mounting cynicism.
These two contexts are linked. Our recent survey of school principals clearly showed that while many had reservations about Local Schools, Local Decisions, these reservations would diminish if they had assurances about future funding, partly represented by the prospect of net increases in funding from the Gonski reforms. By clouding the matter of how much may be available to schools in a Gonski future you have seriously undermined the prospects for your own policy initiative.
The third context relates to State revenue sources. Like everyone else, principals will be reading about other sources of revenue available to the State government. They and their school communities will wonder what your decision says about priorities when the education of our young people will be compromised, while other potential revenue sources are apparently off-limits to government. We believe that your government has seriously underestimated the willingness of the public to support revenue initiatives which will sustain and increase investment in their childrens’ future.
You will have noticed that non-government schools and supporters have been quick to campaign on their sectional interests; we are already being faced with urgent requests to do the same.
Our two organisations look forward to an early opportunity to raise these and other questions about the funding cuts, along with the options available to both the government and our organisations, directly with government.
Lila (Liliana) Mularczyk JP
Principal, Merrylands High School
President, The NSW Secondary Principals’ Council
NSW ACEL Executive