Matters of Public Importance - Education Funding

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:04): It is interesting to hear those opposite as they twist and turn and try to change the facts on what has happened in the school funding debate. The member for Boothby, for example, is putting forward an argument that she is quite happy that the schools in her electorate will be getting $25 million less than they would have been if her government had kept the promise that they made to people in the election. Indeed, in South Australia there were posters up at polling booths: 'We will match dollar for dollar what Labor has committed on schools.' The reality is a significant decrease in the funding in her electorate. It is the same story in my own electorate and in electorates all across the country. Our schools across the Illawarra and Southern Highlands will lose $59 million in the next few years alone.

It is just over 30 years since I started my teaching career. I am pleased to have my colleague the member for Lalor here with me, another teacher. The other side like to quite often challenge us on what jobs we have done on this side. I wonder how many teachers spoke in this debate from their side. At the time when I started teaching, an intense, bitter and divisive debate about public versus private school funding played out, election after election, in this country. When we got an agreement around the work done by David Gonski and the panel on how to create a funding model that saw the rights of every child to get the funding they needed to give them the chance and opportunity they deserved to be full citizens in this country, it was sector blind and it was needs based.

For the first time in my generation of teaching, we saw every sector on board. We saw every state on board. But, most importantly, it was not politically divided either. We had the government—the then opposition—making commitments that they were completely on board with this Gonski model and funding program. They made promises at the election. The member for Boothby talks about South Australia; I would draw her attention to her own state colleagues in New South Wales. The New South Wales Liberal state government has been consistently calling for the implementation of the full Gonski model, because they know it is the best program for their schools.

Why are we so passionate about it? It is because resources in schools matter and teaching hours in schools matter, and they do not come free. You have to fund them if you want to deliver the outcomes that that additional targeted resourcing can achieve. Today I picked up a copy of the Getting Results booklet that the Gonski bus campaign, which I attended today, has been distributing. In it there is story after story of schools across the country that are making a real difference with that Gonski money. I want to share details of the two that are in my regional area. I met with Hayes Park principal, Phil Seymour, who talked about the fact that at their school, for the first time ever, they have had the supplementary funds that they needed so that they could utilise programs to address the particular needs of their students. He said, 'Whilst it is early days yet, we are confident that the results will continue and more and more of our students will reach their potential in literacy, funding targeted to what that community school needs.' At Sanctuary Point Public School, a bit further south, Principal Jeff Ward says, 'The nature of our community is such that the school is not able to just work with its kids. We have to work with the whole community if we want to achieve better things our kids. Programs such as the Sanctuary Point Dollars Scheme have had enormous benefits for students, because they see their parents and other members of the community working in the school and they see the positive experience it is for them.' There is story after story about the difference that it makes. Just get behind what you promised before the 2013 election: deliver Gonski and make sure the full program, including the reforms that we put in that your minister, when your first selected, cut the strings on, is put into place. You know it needs to happen. If you visit your schools you will have heard it from them across all sectors. It is time to stop the twisting and turning, trying to rewrite history. You made the promise: deliver it.

 

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