My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 25 June 2019

by ray goodlass

NSW budget fails to address the important issues

Though the NSW budget handed down last week splashed plenty of cash around despite the state suffering a drop in revenue due to a fall in stamp duty income because of the housing downturn, in my column this week I will focus on how it totally missed the big issues.

But first of all, a comment on how the pork barrelling, or should that be the cargo cult mentality, was at work in expectations of millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects being lavished on the electorate. This always strikes me as a misguided way of looking at state or federal budgets, because if one electorate scores big-time, others will of necessity miss out. I guess those of this mind-set aren’t overly concerned with equally sharing the goodies around.

So the morning after the budget was handed down our local headline news read “Hospitals across the Wagga electorate have emerged as the big winners with millions of dollars in works from the 2019/20 NSW Budget handed down on Tuesday afternoon.” (Daily Advertiser, 19 June 2019)

Never mind that the budget failed to address many of the big issues that actually impact on real people, including climate change, homelessness and domestic violence, though by some urgent back-pedalling this latter issue was belatedly addressed, in a small way.

As Greens MP David Shoebridge pointed out, “The Greens would choose to put wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of our budget. We’d put community and the environment ahead of big business and developers” he went on to say.

However, a follow up to the hospitals story gave me my focus for today’s column, which is education, though I will explore it in a more broadly meaningful way than the DA’s story read, which was that “some of the state’s fastest growing regional suburbs, located north of Wagga, have to receive a dollar figure for a planned new school”.

What caught my attention was the realisation that according to the budget the state’s public schools will need to justify their funding by proving that they are lifting standards.

To ensure that taxpayers are getting value for money Mr Perrottet said that education would be the first government department that will need to have a clear focus on outcomes.

This is clearly putting politics into the classroom and is therefore something that should not go unchallenged.

It beasts me how state public schools that have been underfunded for years and that take the vast majority of disadvantaged children are expected to achieve the outcomes the state government demands. I was also dismayed that education had been chosen as the first cab off the rank for this new form of favouring those who are already favoured.

Which brings me to the other very worrying education aspect of the budget I also  need to focus on today, which is its record expenditure on private schools, a rank betrayal of the Gonski plan.

 

Hidden among admittedly much needed increases in public school funding is a massive increase in private school funding. This is preventing NSW meeting its Gonski funding commitments to public schools.

This budget sees another 7.5% increase in recurrent expenditure to private schools bringing state government spending to $1.4 billion in the 2019/20 budget. Private schools have now received a 15% funding increase from the NSW government in just the last two years.

The NSW Government needs to meet at least 75% of the resource needs of public schools to enable them to meet minimum Gonski standards, but even with increased expenditure they will only meet 71% of this in 2019/20.

“Meanwhile this budget means the NSW government is providing more than 25% of the resource needs of private schools, when its long term commitment is to just 20% under the National Education Agreement” noted David Shoebridge.

Even with the increased funding to public schools in this budget, the NSW government is still billions short in funding for public schools.

It’s an absolute disgrace that while public school students continue to suffer in demountable classrooms and hold outdoor assemblies because they don’t have a hall, that the State government has billions to give to private schools.

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