Australian parents less than impressed by education budget cuts

Many state school parents want the government of Australia to rip funding from private schools and put “unnecessary” infrastructure projects on hold to make more money available for public education. Education Minister Peter Collier has received many personal pleas to reverse cuts to the education budget.

On February 2nd 2014, The Sunday Times revealed the specific concerns parents have raised over cuts that include a cap on teacher numbers this year and the loss of 500 education jobs. On the same day, more than 285,000 state school students prepared to start the school year. Sue Ellery, Opposition education spokeswoman said that parents would keep pressing the Government until the cuts were reversed as shown by correspondence – from August 20th to November 18th, 2013. However, parents were reassured by Education Minister, Peter Collier, that there would be a teacher in front of every classroom, and that teacher numbers have been maintained at 2013 levels. Since Mr. Collier took office, the Government had boosted education spending by 55% as he claimed, and warned that “there is a crucial difference” between education spending and capital projects.

“These large projects are ‘one-off’ investments while education is recurrent expenditure which takes up a large portion of the State Budget every year,” he said.

However, parents could not hide their displeasure towards the funding cuts. Public school funding should be “diverted” from “unnecessary infrastructure projects and funding allocated to private schools” according to one parent of children who attend West Leederville Primary School.

“This takes away funding that belongs in the public system, which should be free and open to every child in the state,” the parent wrote.

Nonetheless, some parents said they were willing to pay higher voluntary contributions for their children to go to state schools.

As Yasmine Philips of perthnow reported, the government was told by parents at prominent public high schools, including Willetton, Rossmoyne and Churchlands, of their fears that their high standards would be affected. In addition, concerns about the long-term impact on towns, including Manjimup, Kununurra and Wandering, as a result of the cuts were expressed by parents living in those country towns.

The released correspondence was “just the tip of iceberg” according to Ms. Ellery. There were “several thousand documents” where parents had outlined concerns.

“Parents are saying the Barnett Government has its priorities wrong” she said. “More parents will be angry when they take their kids back to school this week. Mr Barnett really needs to rethink these cuts.”

The Government was “directly attacking individual school budgets and education staff” according to opposition Leader Mark McGowan. Schools would have bigger classes, combined classes and cut programs in 2014 as State School Teachers Union president Anne Gisborne put it.

Recurrent funding provided to private schools, “among the most generous in Australia”, would be reviewed by the end of 2014 as Mr Collier said.

“I want to reassure parents that maintaining 2013 teacher (full-time equivalent) numbers in 2014 will result in an increase of less than half a student per teacher across the system,” he said.