THE Western Australian government has backflipped on its planned closure of the state’s Schools of the Air, saying it went ‘too far.’
The decision comes after a widespread community backlash over the threatened closure of the remote area education provider.
The government will reverse more than a third of $61 million in planned education budget cuts, which would also have affected a program for gifted and talented students, and says it won’t freeze an intake for level three teachers.
WA’s Labor Premier Mark McGowan conceded his government had acted in haste and his government apologised for anxiety and distress caused to rural students and their families.
“After serious consideration, the McGowan Government has decided to reverse a number of education savings measures in an effort to strike the right balance between responsible financial management and quality education services,” a ministerial statement said this afternoon.
“Last month, in order to deliver budget savings quickly and fix the mess left behind by the Liberals and Nationals, a range of measures were announced to be implemented by the Department of Education from 2019,” the statement said.
All measures were estimated to provide $64 million in savings across the forward estimates. With the decision to reverse some of those measures, the total saving to the Budget was now estimated to be about $41 million, Premier McGowan said.
“The McGowan Government is committed to delivering responsible financial management to get the State’s finances back on track and will continue to find savings across government,” he said.
“The former Liberal National Government wrecked the finances with their out of control spending and irresponsible budget management. Since taking office, we have announced a number of saving and revenue measures to ensure the burden of budget repair is shared across the community.”
“Education is pulling its weight, but upon reflection we realise we took it too far when it comes to education services and we now need to get the balance right. As Premier, I will always lead a Government that governs in the interests of all Western Australians.”
“We won’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to the finances, but we won’t compromise the quality of education in the process.”
WA Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said finding savings in education was extremely difficult and in an effort to help fix the finances, the government had made a rushed decision that left many people feeling anxious and distressed.
“We’ve listened to the concerns raised and took time to further analyse the impact of the savings measures announced both from a financial and education perspective,” she said.
“These changes announced today strike the right balance and ensure that every child receives a high-quality education, no matter where they live.”
“However I won’t shy away from finding savings and helping contribute to budget repair.”
- Beef Central’s original story on the closure announcement before Christmas attracted a torrent of reader comment condemning the WA Government decision. Click here to view.