AN expert panel will debate the effects of drastic cuts to state education spending in a Q&A-style debate in Narooma this Friday.
Organisers are calling on as many people as possible to vote with their feet and come along to the hour-long public meeting to understand exactly how the $1.6-billion cuts will hit local students.
The panel includes Bega member Andrew Constance, Teacher’s Federation vice-president Joan Lemaire, NSW Greens education spokesman John Kaye and regional schools director Bob Aston.
Organisers from the P&C associations of both Narooma schools have invited schools from Bermagui to Batemans Bay to put forward questions at the meeting.
“We’re very concerned about the effects of these changes on our children’s education,” Narooma Public School P&C’s Annette Boulton said.
“We felt compelled to organise this meeting to hear how the NSW government expects to deliver quality education for our kids with a much-reduced pot of money.
“We also wanted to separate fact from fiction and gain a better understanding of exactly what the restructuring will mean, and how it relates to the Local Schools Local Decisions policy and the Federal Government’s Gonski Reforms.”
The cuts were announced in September as part of the O’Farrell government’s commitment to returning the NSW economy to surplus.
They include the loss of 800 TAFE staff and 600 support staff from the NSW education department, but no teaching redundancies in schools.
The debate is sure to be passionate, with John Kaye this week calling on Andrew Constance to “break ranks with the Liberal party and stand up for the rights of their constituents to have access to a quality public education system”.
Dr Kaye said: “Balancing the budget by cutting jobs and funding from public schools and TAFE colleges is a short-sighted measure that will have long term economic and social ramifications for the South Coast.
“Premier O'Farrell's rhetoric of only cutting 'backroom' staff while protecting frontline teachers is a cost-cutting fallacy.
“Teachers rely on the support staff to keep schools running so they can focus on face-to-face teaching.”
Cutting funding to public schools and TAFE may provide a short-lived boost to the state's coffers, but the long-term cost to the South Coast will be rising unemployment and a stagnating economy, he said.
Organisers have stressed that their stance is non-political and all speakers will be given equal opportunity to represent their viewpoint.
The meeting will be held at Narooma Golf Club from 6.30pm this Friday.