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Proper Funding for Our Public Schools

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on January 4, 2022 in Other

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Providing education is one of the single most important jobs a government has responsibility for doing. As a former educator, I have witnessed firsthand the transformational power of education. That is why I am a firm believer and advocate for equal access to education.
Sadly, one of the many things the pandemic has taught us is that not every school student in New South Wales is set up to succeed. The New South Wales education system is deeply divided, with very different levels of access, support, facilities and technology offered to students in our public education system compared to our private system. The divide between our public and private schools has never been as stark as it is today.
Across the state, and right here in the Coogee electorate, public school P&Cs are forced to raise funds for badly needed and well overdue infrastructure upgrades – upgrades that should be funded by the New South Wales Government – including upgrades to bathrooms, libraries, playgrounds and school halls.
This year a record number of public schools in my electorate submitted applications to the Community Building Partnerships (CBP) grant program to fund essential upgrades. I saw firsthand how P&Cs have worked tirelessly throughout the lockdown to find new ways to raise funds outside of their usual fundraising events. The projects that these local parents are trying to fund are not creature comforts, they are bare necessities. Some of these include funding for upgrades to student bathrooms, benches for students to sit on, increased shade to play in, improved library facilities and even disability access.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the New South Wales Government has intentionally and continually underfunded public education in our state. It was exposed that the government has been using an accounting trick to underfund public schools in this state to the tune of $600 million per year, compared with the original Gonski plan. At a federal level, a Productivity Commission review revealed that just over the past decade, spending per student in non-government schools increased by 3.3 per cent per year, compared with just 1.4 per cent for government schools.
The lack of investment in our public schools is clear in the growing dependence on P&Cs to fund basic needs and infrastructure upgrades at our public schools, but it can also be seen in our dire teacher shortage, the never-ending delays on already long-overdue and essential upgrades and the reliance on demountable classrooms as key learning spaces. Our kids deserve better than this.
At the last election, Labor committed to funding our public schools up to the full Gonksi recommendation level. Two years on, it has become even clearer that this funding increase needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.
This is why I am a proud sponsor of the campaign being headed by our local public schools calling on the New South Wales Government to fully fund our public schools in line with the original Gonski plan.