NSWSPC, PPA, PSFP decry cuts to State Schools

The Honourable Barry O’Farrell, MP
Premier NSW
Minister for Western Sydney

Dear Mr O’Farrell,

We are writing on behalf of over 2200 Principals of State schools in New South Wales. As the presidents of the New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council (SPC); Primary Principals’ Association (PPA) and Public Schools Principal Forum (PSPF) we wish to express our strong opposition to the NSW State Government’s announced funding cuts to the essential service of education.

The Gonski Review clearly identified the need to invest $5 billion (2009 money) in education to attain and maintain a competitive international position. Under your savage cuts, NSW state education will be doubly underfunded. Your government’s legacy will be based on an ill informed budgetary concern that undermined the education of young people in schools currently and into the future. This will diminish our international standing and our social capital and greatly undermines your pre-election commitment to “make New South Wales number one again”.

Our organisations have applauded the commitment of your government, as announced by Minister Piccoli, to implement the Gonski recommendations, a commitment which has made NSW a leader amongst the 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.

Public school communities in all parts of the State are crying out for increased investment in the education of their children and will react negatively to the inequity of the cuts, when public school cuts are compared with those proposed for non-government schools. Public schools cater for the most costly, high-needs students and unless this is taken into account, your decision to cut all sectors equally flies in the face of the very Gonski recommendations that you have supported.

Like everyone else, principals are reading about other sources of revenue available to the State government. They and their now-mobilising school communities, are wondering 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 children’s future.

The results of the recent AEU survey indicated that: over 70 per cent of people oppose the $1.7 billion in cuts to public education; 82 per cent believed it was either important or very important to increase funding for public schools; only 28 per cent said they would have voted for a coalition government if they knew these cuts would be made.  The community knows the last place cuts should be made is in public schools. Children are the last ones who should be the victims of State Government budget cuts.

Furthermore, this announcement undermines the productive discussions we have participated in 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” for some of the benefits of Local Schools, Local Decisions and expressed reservations about other aspects, our organisations, and others, 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, those principals who have supported Local Schools, Local Decisions will be rethinking their position. The SPC, PPA  and PSPF 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. This may place the goodwill in jeopardy.

We seek a further meeting to explore options for your government to consider as briefly discussed in our first meeting.

Liliana Mularczyk                                                               Cheryl McBride
President: NSW Secondary Principals’ Council         President: NSW Public Schools Principals Forum
(NSWSPC)                                                                         (NSW PSPF)

Jim Cooper
President: NSW Primary Principals Association

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