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Restore equality

Friday, 3rd December, 2010

Local NSW Teachers Federation representative Maureen Clark Local NSW Teachers Federation representative Maureen Clark

By Stefan Delatovic

The NSW Teachers Federation is calling on everyone to help restore equality to the country's school funding system.

The Federation is running a campaign encouraging people to make submissions into the Government's formal review of the way schools are funded. 

The campaigners have been visiting Broken Hill this week, culminating in a dinner at the Musician's Club on Wednesday night.

Vice-President of the Federation, Gary Zadkovich, told those at the dinner that the funding system was an "absolute dog's breakfast" that had to be replaced.

Teachers, parents and union leaders attended the dinner and many took the opportunity to voice their opinion.

This is the first time since 1973 that the funding system has been reviewed. Since 1977, public schools have lost 13 per cent of their share ofstudent enrolments to the private sector. 

Over the same period, their funding has reduced by two-anda- half times that, or 32 per cent. Mr Zadkovich said that wasn't fair.

"We finally have an opportunity to right the wrongs. This is a huge equity issue, a huge social justice issue. 

We are engaged in a struggle to guarantee a fair go for all children," he said.

Mr Zadkovich and the Federation believe it is the government's obligation to provide all children with the opportunity to meet their potential, and giving most of their funding to private schools did not track with that goal.

Public schools take in 66 per cent of students. Recent one-off funding projects by the Federal Government, such as the Building the Education Revolution, have allocated funding based on student needs and enrolment figures. 

That's seen public schools provided with 69 or 70 per cent of funding, and met with Federation approval.

But when it comes to the Government's $12 billion annual education budget, which funds school salaries, staff and services, public schools only receive one third, with the majority given to private institutions.

Public schools do receive the lion's share of State funding, but when you put it all together, private schools have $1,500 more to spend on each student.

That's while public schools educate the majority of needy students - the ones who need more help, closer attention, and, because of that, more money.

Public schools have 79 per cent of all "at risk" students, 91 per cent of new arrivals to the country, 80 per cent of disabled students and 86 per cent of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students.

Mr Zadkovich said a new funding system should recognise these demands. The current system fuels a perception among some parents that private schools offer a better education.

Mr Zadkovich hopes for a future where parents send their students to private school due to choices about religion and the like instead.

He is asking local schools, parents, teachers, and everyone to make a submission to the inquiry. If the Government would close the funding gap between public and private, it would mean an extra $1,500 per student per school.

He hopes people will consider what could be done with that money and tell the Government. If the public school movement does not generatethe majority of submissions, its message will be undercut.

Submissions can be made through nswtf.org.

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