Maitland Mercury


Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham dismissed my concern about the $43 million cuts to school "Gonski" funding in the Paterson electorate as a "scare campaign".

Yes, Minister, it is scary.

Scary that our schools, our teachers and our students will miss out on the funding they need to keep up with the rest of the world; scary that a government that promised to deliver the full Gonski rollout has gone back on its word.

In his Letter to the Editor in Wednesday's Maitland Mercury, Senator Birmingham said the government would deliver record funding to schools this year. Government funding for nearly everything increases by millions of dollars each year. The numbers of students goes up with population growth; teachers' wages go up with inflation. This is not "extra" money for improving schools.

He said schools would still be able to support new or existing initiatives such as specialist teachers or targeted intervention programs. That's not what I am hearing.

He criticised the 27 different funding arrangements Labor made with the states. That was necessary because states and systems were at different starting points and the goal was to move to a national standard.

He said that while funding mattered, what you do with it mattered more, and funding would be tied to back-to-basics reforms to boost student outcomes. But what are these reforms - tests for 6-year-olds?

Gonski cuts are real. Long-term funding is needed to secure outcomes. Schools need to plan. Kids need a chance.

This government is pulling the rug out from under them. That's what's scary.

Meryl Swanson, Member for Paterson