Union sour on Mid West education funding

David SalvaireGeraldton Guardian

The Department of Education has defended its track record for public school funding in Geraldton after a teachers’ union attack over growing class sizes and per-student funding cuts.

The State School Teachers Union of WA’s analysis of My School website data shows an $820 per student drop in funding to Geraldton public schools between 2009 and 2014.

SSTUWA president Pat Byrne said the report showed the Government had neglected public schools in the region, claiming there had been a 12 per cent funding boost to private schools in the same period.

“Students in Geraldton are now in bigger classes and getting less access to the individual help they need,” she said.

“We already know from the annual Report on Government Services that WA has the highest student-to-teacher ratios in the nation.”

Under the State Government’s student-centred funding model, schools are allocated teachers and budgets based on the amount of children and their needs.

Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney said increasing public school enrolments across the State showed the Government was making public schools an enticing option for parents.

“WA is the only State where people are moving back from the private system into the Government system,” he said.

“From the taxpayer’s point of view that’s not such a great thing because it means we have to spend more money on education but it does indicate that people in WA don’t regard Government education as second rate.”

Education Minister Peter Collier disputed the accuracy of the SSTUWA figures.

“We do not recognise the figures that have been released in reference to the My School website, ” he said.

“In the 2007-08 financial year we spent $11,833 per public school student.

“In the current budget this has increased by $4951 — more than 40 per cent — per student.

“This averages a 3.96 per cent increase in spending per student per year over the past seven years.”

Mr Collier said the teacher-to-student ratio had hardly changed in public schools in the past seven years.

“Student numbers have increased 14.8 per cent in the past seven years, and paid full-time equivalent teaching numbers have increased 16 per cent to cover this growth,” he said.

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