Education Bodies’ anger at cuts

Dear Mr O’Farrell,

The organisations represented by the signatories to this letter vehemently oppose the funding cuts to education by the state government. Collectively we represent almost all the students, families and school staff in New South Wales.

The government is responsible for developing our social capital and ensuring we remain internationally competitive.

The NSW Education Act (1990) provides [Part 2: “Objects of the Act”: section 4(c), (d)]

“it is the duty of the State to ensure that every child receives an education of the highest quality”, and further:

“the principal responsibility of the State in the education of children is the provision of public education”.

It follows from its own legislation that the education of its young people is among the highest of government obligations in NSW.

Therefore, the education of all school-aged children should also be among its highest priorities for budgetary allocation when considering priorities, notional budget deficits or the questionable determinations of credit rating agencies. Given that overall taxation in Australia is among the lowest per capita in the OECD in comparison to its GDP, we have to deplore any move to cut or redirect money from education.

Just a few months ago, the Gonski funding review reported that education across Australia was underfunded by $6.5 billion in today’s terms. The NSW share of that amount appears comparable with the amount that the government is now proposing to cut from our schools. This means that NSW schools – many of which are seriously underfunded – will now suffer a double hit. As the Gonski Review identified, economic success relies on educational investment and all governments need to acknowledge, accept and respond constructively to that finding.

The New South Wales Government has demonstrated a considerable gap between its rhetoric and the reality of its decisions. It initially stood out in its forthright support for implementation of the Gonski recommendations. It has now demonstrated that this support will not be backed up by the funding needed. It has been determined to pass more responsibility and the associated workload to schools – it has now demonstrated that this will not be properly funded.

How can the government claim that these cuts will not affect the delivery of education and especially the education of high-needs children and young people? Schools maintain their high standards through a reliance on the professionalism of our teachers and the goodwill of our communities. With the support of governments our organisations have always worked to maintain the high standards in our schools and the professionalism of our teachers; in the face of declining support the goodwill will be the first casualty with more to follow.

Discussions with the Premier have given no comfort that any of these concerns have had any influence on the government’s determination to evade its legal and ethical responsibilities of providing the highest quality of Education to its young people. The fact that these very divergent groups have come together to endorse this letter should suggest that that our concerns are deep-seated and widely shared in our schools and communities.

Education funding in Australia is already below the OECD average as a proportion of GDP and student outcomes, as reflected in PISA results, have been declining across Australia. The proposed cuts to NSW school funding will accelerate the erosion of NSW and Australia’s international competitiveness. The recent announcement of a State Budget surplus undermines any credibility of the need for cuts to the education portfolio. This short-sighted approach also places at risk the access by NSW students and schools to the critically-needed Commonwealth funding recommended by the Gonski report.

We urgently seek a meeting with The Premier and The Minister for Education.

Dr John Collier
CHAIR, Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) NSW/ACT Branch

Maria Pearson
PRESIDENT, NSW Association of Catholic School Principals

Ms Tricia Maidens
SECONDARY CHAIR, Catholic Association of Secondary Schools of Australia (NSW Secondary Branch)

Mark Mowbry
PRIMARY CHAIR, NSW Association of Catholic School Principals National Executive Council, Australian Primary Principals Association

John Quessy,
GENERAL SECRETARY of the Independent Education Union (IEU)

Laraine Lucas
Independent Primary School Heads Association IPSHA (NSW)

Lyall Wilkinson
PRESIDENT, Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations of (NSW P&C)

Cheryl McBride
PRESIDENT, Public Schools’ Principals Forum (NSWPSPF)

Geoff Scott
PRESIDENT, NSW Primary Principal’s Association (NSWPPA)

Lila Mularczyk
PRESIDENT, NSW Secondary Principals’ Council (NSWSPC)

Maurie Mulheron
PRESIDENT, NSW Teachers’ Federation (NSWTF)

Danielle Cronin
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Council of Catholic School Parents NSW/ACT

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