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'Call off the cuts'

Friday, 2nd November, 2012

By Erica Visser

Public and private schools want the State Government to reduce massive cuts to education funding after it was revealed that the State is $1 billion better off than it had estimated.

The revelation was made on Wednesday when the NSW auditor- general found the missing $1 billion hidden in Treasury's accounting errors.

While the State was presumed to have a deficit of $337m, the finding means it was actually $680m in surplus.

Director of Schools for the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, Vince Connor, said that the Government should now go back on its decision to freeze funding levels for independent schools.

"With the latest revelation in regards to finding out that the State Government budget has an extra billion dollars, the necessity for cutting services such as health, education, etcetera, seems less," he said.

"Sometimes people have this vision of a non-government school as very exclusive and very expensive but the non-government Catholic system schools are reflective of the community and affordable to the community."

The cuts for the independent sector had been lessened in recent weeks following a backlash from the school community.

Barrier Teachers Association President, Maureen Clark, called on the Government to reinstate the sum to the education budget, which faced cuts
of $1.7 billion.

The NSW Teachers Federation has also been calling on the Government to reverse its "devastating" decision.

"Teachers are left wondering why we are being subject to $1.7 billion in cuts to the education budget and the devastating effect that this will have
over time on our public schools when it has been revealed that the NSW Coalition Government actually made a mistake in telling voters that there was a budget deficit," Mrs Clark said yesterday.

"I would be very hopeful that the Government would listen to the parents and the teachers of NSW and reinstate this money into the education budget.

"(Premier) Barry O'Farrell immediately attacked the public sector in his budget, aiming to make frontline public sector workers pay for a supposed
black hole left by the previous government.

"I would be asking, as an educator and taxpayer, for the Government to reinstate that money."

Teachers Federation Western Region Organiser, Brett Bertalli, said that the treasury was not in "dire straits as the O'Farrell Government would have us believe.

"The budget black hole that the Treasurer so often cites is a complete fiction," Mr Bertalli said.

"The Auditor General's report has given the Treasurer an opportunity to halt the $1.7 Billion cuts to our children.

"The Treasurer needs to take that opportunity to put students first and put his scalpel away.

"I call on our local MP John Williams to protect the children of rural NSW. Tell your Treasurer to reverse the funding cuts and abandon the mechanism that will strip millions more from our kids."

However, Mr Williams said the reforms were necessary.

"Local Schools, Local Decisions is going ahead, whether the Teachers Federation likes it or not," he said.

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