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What do the budget cuts to schools really mean to students?

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By Lakshmi Singh

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The NSW education minister Mr. Adrian Piccoli has announced that $1.7b will be slashed from schools’ budget.

This includes public, private and independent schools.

As a mother whose first child is going to start school in 2014, this worries me a lot.

Like all parents, I want the best for my child, but seeing decisions like these made makes me wonder if he will even get an average education experience.

Earlier this year, teen newspaper L.A Youth conducted a survey amongst teens to help identify how budget cuts across the U.S was affecting their classroom experience.

57% said that they had to copy information from an overhead projector by hand because the schools couldn’t afford to make paper copies.

64% said their restrooms were in need of repair.

Closer to home, 70% of Tasmanian public school teachers said that due to budget cuts, the ability to deliver a full range of learning programs have been affected. And another 70% think that students with disabilities will not receive the support they need.

Similarly, Victorian schools were “forced to cut music programs, abolish teacher aides, increase class sizes, cancel electives, cut specialist teachers and go into debt.”

There is plenty more evidence that slashing budgets to schools negatively impacts on both the students and the wider community. However, my concern is that my son will have to experience the same sort of things I did when I was in school back in India – copy off the blackboard/projector, use facilities that were in desperate need of TLC, forego certain lessons or subjects due to lack of resources. To avoid all this was the reason my parents decided to immigrate to Australia. So we can make use of modern learning methods, access better facilities and experience a superior quality of school life.

Now, it looks like my children are going to be subject to similar conditions or arrangements in terms of their learning experience if past budget cut indications are anything to go by.

In India, many schools ask for “donations” of thousands of dollars as part of the application process. If the government continues to cut funding to schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if schools in NSW also begin to adopt this approach by charging application fees.

Education in a first-world country is supposed to be free and world-class but by the looks of it, my son will now have similar experiences to my school life back in India.

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Lakshmi Singh - to view all of Lakshmi's blog post click here

Lakshmi Singh is a freelance writer and mother of two young children, attempting to live a sane life in Sydney, Australia. When she is not busy chasing small people around the house, she is typing away furiously, doing endless loads of laundry or dishes, and organizing the family's events like her life depended on it. You can learn more about her crazy life by following her on twitter.

Website: http://www.lakshmisingh.com.au

  • As a mum of school aged kids (who attend public school) I have had no qualms with the resources of the school, the expertise of the staff or the overall experience of schooling. I think the key here are expectations of education, the role of parents in working in partnership with the school and how you get involved. Our school has a very active P&C who make up the shortfall with things like interactive whiteboards, new readers and playground equipment. I’m also conscious that if I’m not happy private or Independant schooling might suit me and my kids more down the track. The budget cuts are concerning but a good teacher is the key at the end of the day and they exist in the public and private sector.

    • Lakshmi Singh

      Hi Sarah, yes I do agree that teachers are the key at the end of the day. But I fear that they might be forced out of the public sector too because of these budget cuts due to job dissatisfaction owing to increasing class sizes or pay cuts.

      • That’s a good point Lakshmi, I hope all the good teachers aren’t all forced out of the public sector.

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  • Jocelyn

    The real worry isnt that kids about the bricks and mortar or the technology which many schools have good access to – its about the slashing of the 600 support staff and regional office structure. Teachers pay is basically frozen. and the support they get in admin and specialised learning assistance is where the stress will hit and the needs of kids will get overlooked.

    The changes to the extra help and support services – like for kids with disabilities via the “Every Student, Every school’ measures which make each school their own little unit without the expertise of people in the region to assist with students who have specific learning needs (but not super severe or significant ones – most of those pointy end services stay) including behavioral issues.

    The fact is most schools have P&C committees who already work tirelessly to raise extra funds for their schools each year. Getting corporate sponsorship and donations to schools who can showcase specialised programs to support students wellbeing and engagement is what every principal should be doing. Especially those in low SES areas where parents generally have neither the expertise or the money to do things.

    Very difficult times for Education ahead.

    • Lakshmi Singh

      Good point Jocelyn. Now, these P&C committies might have to work extra hard to raise funds.

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