Monday, August 20, 2012

Private schools to get more funding

With 40% of Australian teenagers going to private schools, this was a no-brainer.  The parents concerned also vote.  The Labor party has obviously not forgotten Mark Latham's rout over private school funding.  It was a conservative government (in 1963 under  Menzies) that initiated Federal funding for private schools and conservatives have owned the issue ever since

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will today reveal that every independent school will receive an increase in government funding regardless of its wealth.

The announcement, a significant victory for the private school lobby, goes beyond the government's previous pledge that no school would lose a dollar under funding reforms.

It is designed to head off the Coalition scare campaign that private schools would have to increase fees because their funding would not increase in real terms under the long-awaited overhaul of school funding.

At an independent education forum in Canberra today, Ms Gillard will say there should be government support to educate every child from the poorest and most remote school to the best known and best resourced.

"Every independent school in Australia will see their funding increase under our plan," she is expected to say. "This plan will lift school standards, not school fees.

"No matter how rich or poor your parents are or where you go to school, our nation should provide a basic degree of support to your education."

Speaking to the Herald this month, Ms Gillard signalled she wanted to swing the national debate back to Labor policy strengths such as education, disability and industrial relations.

Today's funding pledge is a massive departure from former Labor leader Mark Latham's notorious private school "hit list", which would have resulted in 67 of the nation's wealthiest schools losing funding.

Labor has been determined not to antagonise the private school sector after the "hit list" was one of the policies blamed for its 2004 election loss.

David Gonski, who chaired the first major review into school funding in 40 years, was given the task of ensuring no school would lose a dollar as a result of its recommendations. But Ms Gillard will today go a step further and say every independent school will receive a funding increase.

The states and independent and Catholic education systems have raised concerns that modelling showed 3254 schools could lose out if the Gonski model was strictly applied. This includes 227 Catholic schools, 720 government schools and 103 independent schools in NSW.

However, the Gonski modelling assumes government and Catholic education systems would redistribute funding to ensure no school was worse off.

The federal government's final response to the Gonski review was initially expected this week but is now expected next month.

The review recommended the federal and state governments boost spending on education by $5 billion a year, with the majority to go to public schools.

The model aims to address disadvantage by allocating a standard amount per student, with loadings for students with a disability and those from low-income, indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds.

The Commonwealth is expected to tip in $3 billion - double the amount the Gonski review suggested - with the states also required to contribute.

However, the funding will be conditional on schools submitting a performance plan on how they would improve student results and more training and annual performance reviews for teachers.


Carbon pain registers for businesses

STRUGGLING small business owners are reporting a hit to their profits from the carbon tax - but are unwilling to pass increased costs on to customers because of the tough retail environment.

A national survey of 186 small firms has found 50 per cent are reporting carbon tax-related price hikes to power bills and other supplies. But only 33 per cent are making their clientele pay.

With many high street retailers experiencing slow trading conditions, a mere 8 per cent favoured the carbon tax, according to a News Limited survey.

And in more bad news for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, backing for Labor among small businesses has plunged.

Only 7 per cent said they would vote Labor at the next election. Eighteen per cent voted for the ALP at the 2010 federal poll.

About 66 per cent of the businesses surveyed - including bookshops, cafes, shoe stores, automotive outlets and other retailers - say they have absorbed the tax and have taken a hit to their profits.

Some businesses claimed the effect of the tax is so bad they may have to close some operations.  "We have to consider closing one business down to keep the other business open because of the carbon tax," said Doug Cush, the owner of Bellata Gold Pasta, in the northern NSW electorate of New England.

Adrian Sykes, owner of the Autosmart vehicle cleaning products business at Rathmines, on the Central Coast, estimated a 5 per cent increase in wholesale costs with half a dozen suppliers lifting prices within a week of the carbon tax commencing.

"People are using the carbon tax as an excuse; there hasn't been enough time for there to be a real impact," Mr Sykes said.

Small Business Minister Brendan O'Connor is more upbeat and said business angst was dissipating. "The overall cost impact is negligible. Treasury has confirmed the cost (of carbon tax on energy) is 0.2 per cent to overall costs of business," he said.

Mick Carroll, who owns a plastics moulding firm in Victoria with annual revenues of about $1 million, has recently been told that his electricity rates are going up by 47 per cent from September 1.While the carbon tax is only responsible for some of this hike, Mr Carroll said he would find it hard to make further savings to offset the increase in his $2500 a month power bill.  "I'm already to the bone in terms of our margins. This will be the final nail in manufacturing as I know it," he said.

The survey was conducted across 10 electorates in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, regions which are held by those who helped introduce the scheme.

These include Ms Gillard's seat of Lalor, Treasurer Wayne Swan's seat of Lilley, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet's seat of Charlton and the two NSW seats held by independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

While worried about prices, small firms said the carbon tax has had only a marginal impact on cutting paperwork.  But this has done little to allay concerns about the tax's impact.

One Canberra bookshop owner believes his prices will increase by "at least" $10,000 a year, mainly due to extra power and rent.


Furious fishermen protest government plans for marine park plans and Coral Sea fishing

HUNDREDS of angry fishmongers and trawlers rallied against Federal Government plans to introduce new marine parks yesterday, voicing fears of a dramatic increase in the proportion of imported seafood on Queensland plates.

Also in their sights were proposals to shut down significant sections of the Coral Sea to fishing.

The rally was organised by Hamilton seafood identity Kristina Georges, who operates Samies Girl Fresh Seafood Market.

Industry members descended on Shorncliffe to express their concerns.

Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association net delegate Dave Thomson said recreational and commercial fishermen would be hurt by the proposed changes.

"I've been in this industry all my life and I'm 62 years old," he said.  "It's just sad to see that the whole thing is getting eroded away. Eventually, it's got to stop. Let's just continue with the sustainable fishing that we've got.  "They're trying to raise issues that aren't really there."

Mr Thomson said the "green push" driving the changes would lead to changes in importation levels.  "There's going to be less local seafood available," he said.  "Eventually, we're going to have to feed the place. I'm struggling to understand the actual reasoning behind it all."

Prawn trawler couple Sam and Steve Anderson attended the rally with the hope of sending a message to the Federal Government.

"That's the most important thing," Mrs Anderson said.

"There is going to be no fresh seafood, there's going to be no Australian seafood. Where are we going to get our seafood from? It's going to come from overseas."


Students troubled by role adults play in school bullying

AS SCHOOLS struggle with the problem of bullying, the role that adults play is often overlooked.

According to students who previewed a confronting new American documentary on the subject, threatening and violent behaviour gets worse when adults ignore it, condone it or just play it down as "kids just being kids".

"It was just scary because of how the adults reacted to the bullying that was happening," said Ashley Colaco, 15. "They just didn't do really anything about it.

"They tried to make the children sort it out for themselves and there was really no support there for the kids."

The film centres on five troubling cases in middle America: a lonely boy whose bus trip to school is a violent ordeal, a girl who is ostracised when she comes out as gay, a teenager who fights back by pointing a loaded gun at her taunters and the grieving families of two boys driven to take their own lives. They are reputedly among more than 13 million American students bullied every year.

The class seemed stunned by the violence shown in American schools compared with the "safe haven" of their own.

For Rachel Djoeandy, 16, it was confronting seeing a boy being strangled on a school bus and others being pushed into lockers.

"A lot of bullying that exists is nowhere near that kind of standard but it obviously starts at a very small stage and just gets magnified and magnified," said Nick Iliadis, 17.

And while the latest CensusAtSchool survey suggests Australian students are more concerned about reducing bullying than any other social issue, the Caringbah class say they are taught how to handle it.

"They definitely give us options of who to speak to," said Ashley Colaco. "They definitely tell us 'ok, if something is happening, go to … the welfare adviser or your teacher or your parents', so that you're not just alone. I have friends who'd support me through anything so I'd definitely go to them as well."

The school's year adviser, Craig Cantor, found himself getting angry at the adults in the film, including a senior school official and a police officer who gave little support to the victims. He believes schools have improved how they handle the issue, with less of a "boys will be boys" attitude and more understanding that bullying can be psychological rather than just physical.

For the school's welfare teacher, Rosie Miller, it was troubling that parents and teachers in the film were putting the responsibility on children to solve the problem.

But she found the toughest part was "the raw grief" of parents whose children had taken their own lives.


No comments: