PARTIES OUTLINE EDUCATION POLICIES

Greens

John Kaye
Greens NSW MP and Education Spokesperson

Greens MP and education spokesman John Kaye

Twenty-first century public schools and TAFE colleges are the fulfilment of a 135-year-old vision of socially just, secular and effective education for all.

Despite the incalculable benefits, governments, both Labor and Liberal-National, have created barriers to that vision, with biased and inadequate funding, the imposition of market and management ideology and systematic attacks on the values of public education and the teachers who deliver them.

The Greens have shown a decade and a half of determination to break down those barriers and pressure and shame governments into respecting public education and providing the resources it needs to serve the entire community.

TAFE is now the front line of the old parties’ assault on public education.

Labor’s savage budget cuts, followed by the Liberals and Nationals’ training market, have brought the public provider to the brink of collapse. In 2015/16, TAFE will have to compete with low cost, low quality private providers for more than $640 million of its budget. Students are facing rising fees and diminished options, with shorter classes, disappearing support for students with disability and 1100 positions already gone from TAFE.

Campaigning by the Greens, Federation, students and staff pressured the NSW Upper House into passing our bill to place a moratorium on the competitive market and to take fees and public funding back to 2010 levels. While our legislation was defeated in the Lower House we are committed to reintroducing it after the election.

If we can’t defeat Smart and Skilled we want to chain it up. After reviewing the devastation that just two months of Smart and Skilled inflicted on TAFE, we have adjusted our ‘Plan B’ promise to limit private provider funding to 10 per cent of the VET budget and only for courses that TAFE cannot teach. We would also prohibit public subsidies to for-profit registered training organisations and new operators.

It’s public money and it belongs to TAFE.

Like the Local Schools, Local Decisions school autonomy agenda, league tables and the 2.5 per cent salary cap, Smart and Skilled is the ideology of managerialism, privatisation and competition and it has no place in public education.

We worked hard to stop then-treasurer Mike Baird from stripping out the industrial rights of public sector workers to an independent umpire. We are committed to repealing the cap and untying the hands of the Industrial Relations Commission.

The Greens believe that teachers and school leaders should be empowered to make important educational decisions in the interests of their students and communities. However, Local Schools, Local Decisions is the thin edge of a wedge that threatens the state-wide staffing agreement and the collective responsibility of society to fund public education and maintain a qualified teacher in front of every class. It has already taken its toll on English as Second language teaching and expert support for teachers.

The Greens will seek to enshrine the staffing agreement in legislation to force any government that sought to undermine teacher permanency, the rights of rural and remote students and class sizes to at least have to confront parliament and the media.

The Abbott government’s shameful deceit on Gonski will deny public schools the promise of funding that recognises the resources needed to accomplish the heavy lifting tasks.

The Greens believe the time has come to throw down the gauntlet to governments and the private school lobby who are enshrining educational privilege at the expense of public schools.

The Greens will go to this election with a promise to strip private and Catholic schools of the $1 billion a year the state government gives them and put it back into public education where it belongs.

Ten thousand new teachers can be employed with the new money, and many of those teachers can be directed towards targeted support for each student with additional needs.

When they were in opposition, the Liberals and Nationals strongly supported the Upper House inquiry’s findings on closing the shortfall in support for students with disability.

Now they are in government, their misnamed Every Student, Every School denies targeted support to thousands of students and particularly those with low-level support needs.

We know how to fund public education so that every student with disability has access to specialist teachers, classes and schools for special purposes are properly resourced and expanded and disability teachers can specialise and are supported by consultants and experts in each disability type.

The Greens want public schools to be places parents, teachers and students are proud of. We would close the $550 million maintenance, refurbishment and rebuilding gap and pay for it by removing the land tax exemptions for wealthy private schools.

We are prepared to invest in the future of public education. We believe in supporting small schools and large schools, in ensuring that education is secular and free and in stopping land grabs and school land sell-offs.

Federation comments

Gonski: The NSW Greens have a record of strong advocacy for increased funding for public schools. This is shown in their campaigning for Gonski funding and their calls on the Federal Coalition Government to honour the Commonwealth commitment to the full six years of the NSW agreement.

Beyond this, the Greens have rejected the “no school will lose a dollar” pre-condition to introducing the Gonski model. They have committed to redirecting government funding from the private schools that do not need it, to the public schools that enrol the overwhelming majority of students with additional learning needs.

TAFE: As with their support of Gonski, the Greens have campaigned for greater investment in TAFE and opposed attempts to privatise TAFE through market-driven, contestable funding policies that hand public money over to private, for-profit training companies.

The Greens have taken action in the NSW Parliament to halt the push to privatise TAFE.

After identifying Smart and Skilled as the latest policy designed to drive the increased privatisation of TAFE, the Greens have pledged to cap contestable funding at 10 per cent.

School staffing: The Greens will include all schools’ teacher staffing entitlements in the staffing agreement, which they pledge to protect though legislation.

Significantly, the Greens also identify the threats posed by Local Schools, Local Decisions to the fair and equitable staffing and resourcing of public schools.

Salaries: The Greens actively opposed the NSW Coalition Government’s imposition of the public sector wages policy that caps increases at 2.5 per cent and denies the right to a fair and independent hearing on salaries in the Industrial Relations Commission.

They reaffirm their commitment to repealing the 2.5 per cent cap and restoring the right for public sector employees to pursue a work value case in the commission.

Special education: The Greens up the ante on special education with a plan to redirect money from the private school sector in order to employ thousands of extra public school teachers to better meet the needs of students with disability.

School buildings and facilities: The Greens’ pledge to redirect money from the private school sector to address the capital works and maintenance backlog will be widely welcomed in public school communities.

Among the measures proposed by the Greens is the removal of the land tax exemptions that benefit wealthy private schools.

The Greens have consistently opposed the privatisation agenda and the sale of state assets. This includes opposition to the sale of Department land and the closure of small schools.