DAY OF ACTION: Teachers protest state government's cuts to education

UP TO 15 Dubbo and district office workers in education will lose their jobs over the next four years, as a result of the planned $1.7 billion in public education funding.

About 100 teachers and concerned residents turned out in support of the NSW Teachers Federation's rally against the state government's funding cut.

The Community Day of Action, held at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, allowed public school and TAFE teachers to stand their ground against the cut, which will affect Dubbo and the surrounding areas.

Over the next four years the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC) will need to reduce its staff numbers by 1800. This includes a realignment of state and regional offices, resulting in a reduction of around 600 positions over the next four years.

TAFE teachers will also be affected in the cut, with a reduction of around 800 positions over the next four years. Rally organiser Noel Creenaune said they protested in the lead-up to the next election in two years time, to which education should be the focal point.

"We've had a big turnout, considering it's the weekend. We did initially want to take industrial action during the week, but this was a better option," he said.

"We (the Teachers Federation) won't tolerate $1.7 billion in cuts imposed on us. We are here today to call for a reversal of the cuts to public schools and TAFE colleges. With the news that an extra $1 billion has been found in the NSW government's budget through the identification of budgetary errors, it is clear that these cuts can be reversed and support maintained for students."

Local teacher and Federation representative Duncan McDonald said the loss of 15 jobs would be a loss of up to $1.5 million in the Dubbo economy.

"There will be up to 15 job losses in Dubbo and its surrounding areas. There will also be 12 losses in the Bourke district office," he said.

“The regions are suffering and it’s happening right across the state. The district office staff who run equity programs will lose their jobs, and this will affect the kids that they teach.”

He said the Teachers Federation have made their position very clear and have contacted the premier’s office as well as the DEC, voicing their concerns for public education and the future of Dubbo kids.

TAFE Teachers Association representative Barry Toole said a cut in funds was a cut in courses.

“Art and design courses will soon be removed from the course list, and anybody interested would be expected to pay thousands rather than hundreds of dollars,” he said.

“People who want jobs in graphic design will be affected, and they won’t be able to afford those kinds of fees if they live in a low socio-economic area.”

He said there was a contradiction when the state government addressed skill shortages, which without funding would affect the quality of teacher training.

State education minister Adrian Picolli said it was great that students, parents and carers weren’t inconvenienced by the union’s day of action, happy it didn’t take place on a school day.

He said the government had been clear that savings in public education were coming from efficiencies in the back office and would not affect students in schools. 

“The savings announced include measures like limiting travel for bureaucrats, reducing the number of consultants the department engages and scaling back procurement in head office,” he said.

“In October 2010, the previous government and the Public Service Association did a deal that will lead to 400 full-time equivalent school administrative officer positions being shed.”

He said the NSW government reinforced its commitment to education in the recent state budget by increasing funding to education by $383 million. It was a record budget for education, which comprised 22.4 per cent of the state budget, up from 22 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

anthony.cini@ruralpress.com

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