Backdown or backlash: Premier warned on school cuts
Premier Barry O'Farrell has refused to restore $1.7 billion over four years to the education budget, provoking a likely voter backlash – a coalition of public, independent and Catholic schools has warned.
The coalition, representing 12 groups including the NSW Teachers Federation, school principals from all sectors, and Catholic and independent school parents, met the Premier and the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, on Thursday to demand the education funds be restored.
The representatives, who form the NSW Education Alliance, said they left the meeting "astounded" the Premier would not retreat from the biggest cuts to education since the late 1980s, under the Greiner Government.
Stephen Grieve, the president of the NSW Parents Council, which represents parents of children at independent schools, warned the cuts would cause an electoral backlash against the government.
"The Greiner government had a significant majority but, after Dr Terry Metherell tried to behave in a similar fashion, they were reduced to a minority government," Mr Grieve said.
"This coalition of ... professional associations and parents groups from all sectors is simply unprecedented. It shows the resolute and implacable opposition to these cuts."
Lila Mularczyk, president of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, said the education coalition refused to accept the budget cuts, which would adversely impact on the education of children.
"We told the Premier we won't back down," she said. "School communities across NSW will fight this decision until it is overturned."
"A budget is always about choices and priorities.
"It was absolutely astonishing that the Premier of NSW is willingly putting NSW education in jeopardy."
John Quessy, general secretary of the NSW Independent Union, said he was "amazed" the government "is still in denial".
"If the attitude doesn't go, then the government has to go," he said.
Mr Piccoli said the education groups "got to have their say" in a meeting that ran for more than an hour.
"It is not surprising they are unhappy with the savings measures," he said.
"We pride ourselves on consulting and listening to stakeholders, but we can't always do what they ask.
"At the end of the day, the Premier made it clear these decisions were out of our hands.
"If there was an expectation the government could change the decision – those expectations were unrealistic.
"We are spending the maximum amount we can in education and health. We can't spend more."
Mr Piccoli also said the Federal Government had not yet made a commitment to renewing national partnership funding for education or the Gonski schools funding model.