Our future depends on our kids, Mr Barnett

The Premier, Colin Barnett, has suggested that parents like me, who are concerned for our children in the face of his savage education cuts, should “get a life.” What he doesn’t seem to understand is that my kids are my life, and I am angry at the cavalier approach he is taking to their development.

It’s clear that I am not the only one, and a growing number of like-minded parents are joining our group SOS (Stop the Cuts – Save our Schools) to stand up and defend the standard of education in public schools in WA.

 

The funding cuts announced by the State Government are savage, counter-intuitive and plain dumb. In an ever-changing world economy, our future prosperity depends more than ever on the investments made in the education of our children.

 

The Premier and Education Minister have stated publicly that the Education Department budget has $300 million more in 2014 than it did in 2013. Yet every single school that SOS is aware of has suffered a budget cut. Where has this extra money gone?

 

On top of staff losses, the most onerous of the government’s cuts has been the imposition of a Long Service Leave levy that schools are expected to finance. It a nutshell, the levy can be described as a tax on schools.

 

The amount schools are being expected to stump up for the levy is around a third of each school’s discretionary budget. Schools can only do this by cutting the programmes designed to help children who need it. This means the levy is having a direct impact on children’s education.

 

The State School Teachers’ Union is surveying all schools to be able to provide detailed figures on the exact size of the cuts, as the government has proved either unwilling or unable to do so.

 

The true impact of these cuts for the 2013 – 2014 financial year is best illustrated by some specific examples from individual schools.

 

Winterfold Primary School lost $86,000 from its school budget. Consequently, the school lost its Education Assistant, who would otherwise be available to give needy children essential extra attention.  One parent at the school has told me that her youngest child, who has been diagnosed with autism, most likely won’t have access to a full time aid when he starts school in 2016.  Not only will this affect her child’s learning, it will affect every other child in the classroom as he takes up more of the teacher’s time.

 

Palmyra Primary School has lost more than $150,000 from its budget. At the same time as losing this funding, the school has been identified by the Education Department as being ‘at risk’ due to less than ideal NAPLAN numeracy and literacy results.  However, because of the budget cuts, the school will struggle to implement the programmes designed to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes.

 

Melville Primary School has lost over $250,000 from its annual budget. At the same time as student numbers have expanded from 687 to 723, four Education Assistants have lost their jobs.  Additionally, successful support programmes for the 20% of students who are either educationally at risk or are over-achievers have been discontinued.

 

The intake for PEAC at all schools has been halved due to the 2014 cuts. As a result many students will be deprived of an outstanding academic extension programme that is designed to accelerate learning for some of our brightest kids.

 

Melville Senior High School has lost over $1,000,000. Melville SHS used to be able to offer a comprehensive education programme to a diverse student body with numerous specialist programmes (such as aviation, netball and English as a second language). With such a savage budget cut, the school had no choice but to discontinue many programmes. For example, at a time when WA is supposed to be engaging with China, Melville High School has been forced to cut Chinese for non-background students.

 

These examples are from schools directly involved in the SOS group.  Other schools will have their own examples, of the effect the cuts have had on them.

 

There is concern that this year’s cuts are the tip of the iceberg and there is every indication that cuts in 2015 will be even more savage.

 

Minister Collier keeps talking about our teachers being well paid, and they are, but he is missing the point.  The Community Day of Action on 1 April is not about pay.  It is about maintaining the resources and support that teachers need to teach our children properly.  Our future prosperity as a state is dependent on the standard of education that we offer our kids.

 

The Education Minister and the Premier are not listening to the community. That’s why SOS is urging families to support the Community Day of Action on 1 April.