Last month the City received the news that the Baird Government was no longer going to proceed with the purchase of the Council owned site at the corner of Wattle and Fig Streets for a proposed new public school in Ultimo. After extensive consultation between the City and the Government the sale appeared to be ready to proceed but somewhere along the way the Baird Government ran out of political will to make this happen. They have said they will continue to look for a more suitable site. Meanwhile a growing number of inner city families are still left without a non-selective public high school.
In the June Council meeting my motion calling on the City to be an advocate for public school funding was passed. In the motion I asked Council to condemn recent Federal schools funding changes being explored by the Abbott Government and call on State and Federal Governments to honour the Gonski funding arrangements. A recent Abbott Government green paper on schools funding reform has floated a number of proposals including the ending of federal funding for public schools and a means testing policy for wealthy families using public schools. Reducing resources for public schools or providing additional barriers to families accessing public schools would be a disaster for inner city families and children across NSW.
Access to public education is essential to create inclusive communities. Public schools have a significantly higher proportion of students from disadvantaged groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disabilities, students who’s first language is not English, and students that come from families that are experiencing poverty. The practice of selling off public school land and merging inner city schools by successive governments has failed the public interest test. As with public housing, using the sale of inner city land to fund services elsewhere only serves short term interests.
I congratulate the City of Sydney for taking a stand on this very important issue. You can see my notice of motion here.