Thursday, September 13, 2012

O'Farrell Takes Axe to Education

English: Barry O'Farrell at the NSW Country Li...
Barry O'Farrell at the NSW Country Liberals Annual Conference in Wagga Wagga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Anna Patty, Sean Nicholls and Phillip Coorey, The Sydney Morning Herald:

A funding cut of $1.7 billion for NSW public and private schools has angered parents, teachers, Catholic bishops and government MPs who have been bombarded with complaints.

A week after details of a confidential meeting between the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, and representatives of the Catholic and independent school sectors leaked, the government revealed wide-ranging cuts.

Funding for independent schools is to be frozen instead of being cut $67 million a year, as originally planned.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, stepped out of a cabinet meeting yesterday to phone the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, about the decision.

The decision means the planned cut of 8 per cent is reduced to 3 per cent - $116 million over four years. That will be matched by a $201 million cut over four years to public school budgets.

It would not be capped forever and the cap would not come into effect until July 1 next year, Mr Piccoli said. ''The intention of these changes is that the impact on non-government schools is the same as government schools of around 3 per cent,'' he said.

The Department of Education will shed 600 staff from state and regional offices and 800 TAFE jobs will be lost during the next four years. Another 400 jobs will go as a result of a new online management system, bringing the total from the department to 1800. Mr Piccoli said no public school teacher would lose their job.

TAFEs would also be forced to increase fees by 9.5 per cent. As the Herald reported on Saturday, news of the cuts upset many Liberal MPs, who have been swamped with emails and calls from constituents.

Mr Piccoli was questioned for more than two hours at a joint party meeting yesterday. One source said the Londonderry MP, Bart Bassett, had told Mr Piccoli he should sack his chief of staff over the lack of consultation with backbenchers.

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