Cuts prompt launch of protest campaign

Cuts prompt launch of protest campaign

Announced at Taroona High School (pictured above) on Thursday, March 12, the Australian Education Union (AEU) has launched an advert protesting the proposed cuts to the education budget in Tasmania.

AEU Tasmania Executive member and teacher David Genford spoke passionately against the cuts at the launch of the campaign, stating that the impact of reducing the funding to public schools will take teachers away from their core work.

“The Gutwein Government plans to slash education in Tasmania with $109 million of cuts over four years,” said Mr Genford, referencing the State Government’s ‘Revised Estimates Report 2019-2020’.

“Teachers and our students need more support but cutting an average of $550,000 from every school will mean less support and more work for teachers that takes us away from teaching.

“Teachers, support staff and parents are telling the government loud and clear, our students can’t suffer more cuts,” continued Mr Genford.

In response, Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said the Tasmanian Government is not making cuts to frontline services in education and it is absolutely irresponsible of the AEU to suggest otherwise.

“Our Government has a strong record of investing in education, and we will continue to deliver the infrastructure, programs and resources Tasmanians need,” Minister Rockliff stated. 

“We are proud to invest a record $7.1 billion into education over the next four years, which includes four new schools, better infrastructure and extensions of our public schools to years 11 and 12.”

Mr Genford spoke about the State Government’s past cuts to education and the disadvantage faced by Tasmanian students, referencing the February 2020 report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People Tasmania.

“Peter Gutwein cut funding to every public school student in his first five years as treasurer … cut more than 260 classroom teachers and other staff from schools, colleges and TAFE,” said Mr Genford.

“As Premier, he has the opportunity to show compassion and champion education, not cut it.

“Tasmanian students arrive in our classes with more disadvantage than students in any other state of Australia and the latest reports show student wellbeing is going backwards.

“There’s an urgent need for more social workers and school psychologists, but how do you hire more support staff when you’re cutting $109 million from education?” continued Mr Genford.

Mr Genford referred to the Australian Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools Association, which recommends a ratio of psychologists/school counsellors to students of 1:500 and reported that currently in Tasmanian public schools, this ratio is around 1:1000.

“Premier Gutwein has a clear choice: it’s cuts or care,” stated Mr Gendford.

Minister Rockliff said that the State Government is already employing more teachers and instigating new models of needs-based funding.

“We are already part way through the employment of an extra 250 teachers and this year have introduced a new needs-based funding model for disability which will see up to 2000 more students get tailored support,” Minister Rockliff refuted.

“We have also implemented the extension of ‘Working Together’, our free preschool program which provides early learning experiences for eligible three-year-olds.

We recognise that a great education is a passport to a better life and we will continue to invest heavily in education to support all students.”

The AEU has announced that the ‘Cuts or Care’ campaign will run across Tasmania until the 2020-21 state budget is delivered or the Premier commits to reverse the education funding cuts.

Although families are not required to pay for public school education, there are levies nominated by each school to cover costs for essential supplies.

In general, Kingborough has primary school levies in line with the rest of the state between $160 and $423 depending on the school and year level.

When it comes to high school education through, the majority of the state, including Woodbridge High School, has levies at or below the $500 mark while Kingston High School ($500-$565) and Taroona High School ($635-$700) are above average.

There are concerns in the community that cutting funding to public schools may mean that schools have to pass on more of the costs to families, increasing levies and costs for excursions, camps and other school-based programs, such as swimming.

The AEU campaign launch concluded by calling on the State Government to action three points.

To boost professional support staff by a minimum of 10 full time equivalent (FTE) staff in the upcoming budget and plan for a further 40 FTE staff to address recommended ratio discrepancies; to bring forward money to fully cover the needs-based funding model in this year’s budget ensuring students have equal access to quality education; and to increase per-student funding to public schools.