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Parent Education Body in Disarray

Posted on 2 September 2018
Parent Education Body in Disarray

Earlier this week, the  Australian Council of State School Organisations [ACSSO] published a Media Release regarding the change in Federal Ministers for Education. Included in the release was a non too flattering reference to the approach adopted by the Catholic sector in its efforts to secure a fair outcome for schools. In the article below which was published in today's AGE, it would appear that ACSSO is not without its own internal challenges, and this may have colored the content of the recent Media Release:

The peak national body for public school parents has been torn apart after its largest member state, NSW, quit the organisation because of its support for the Coalition's school funding model.

The decision means the Australian Council of State School Organisations - which bills itself as the "one voice" for public school communities - is now backed by only Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT.

There has been serious discontent within the public school lobby over ACSSO's support for the Turnbull and Morrison governments' Gonski 2.0 funding model, which cut the amount of money expected to flow to schools over the next decade by $17 billion compared to Labor's promises.

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW decided to disaffiliate from the national body at a meeting on Sunday. In a terse letter seen by Fairfax Media, president Susie Boyd said there was a need for "a truly representative body for public education at a national level" to ensure there was "no conflict in the messaging between the national voice and its members".

Ms Boyd said the NSW association was "of the firm view that ACSSO under its current structure and method of operation is not suited to this belief".

She later told Fairfax Media: "We are unapologetically opposed to the removal of funds that were agreed upon by the former federal government ... a vow is a promise, a promise is your word and politicians, especially those who wish to lead our nation, must stick to their word."

The peak body for public school parents has crumbled in recent years with several defections over its direction. The Northern Territory withdrew last year, joining South Australia and Western Australia. Tasmania threatened to leave but recently reversed that decision.

Some branches of the organisation were angered by a blistering letter sent by ACSSO in March that slammed Labor leader Bill Shorten for his $250 million promise to Catholic schools.

The weakened voice for public schools comes amid intense lobbying by Catholic and independent school groups as the Morrison government works on adjustments to the Gonski 2.0 funding model.

By comparison, ACSSO has distanced itself from state and federal teachers' unions, wanting to be seen as apolitical. President Phillip Spratt hit back at the NSW division by arguing it was politically joined at the hip to the Labor Party.

"It's obviously very disappointing they feel they have to take that view," he told Fairfax Media.

"As a national body we have to engage with all sides of politics and the government of the day, and lobby for the best possible policy. That means engaging with them."

In a media release last week, Mr Spratt heaped praise upon the outgoing federal education minister Simon Birmingham, describing him as "a man that has truly lived up to his [Honourable] prefix".

Tabby Fudge, president of the Northern Territory branch which disaffiliated last year, said her body left the national group because they were sick of "not being heard". Its support for the Coalition's Gonski 2.0 funding model was "the straw that broke the camel's back", she said.

"ACSSO was just not a voice for us at all," Ms Fudge said. "They really need to have a good hard look at what they're doing."

Nigel Jones, vice-president of the Tasmanian branch, said he was "shocked" by NSW leaving and said Mr Spratt needed to resolve things quickly.

"There's been some disquiet for some time about ACSSO and the way they run their organisation," he said. "For NSW to pull out there must be some serious concerns."

However the executive officer of Parents Victoria, Gail McHardy, said ACSSO had endured since 1947 and "we're not removing ourselves from that at this point in time".

"There's obviously some political pressure," she said. "Parents should take heed that parent activism is still there and still loud and strong, it just depends on how people want to wield it."

Labor has promised to restore the $17 billion in funding if elected, but is yet to commit to a model for distributing the money. The party has said the vast majority would flow to public schools.

Ms Boyd said the NSW Federation will continue to lobby for public schools as a standalone entity.

From: The Age, Michael Koziol, 2 September 2018

 

Tags: Funding

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