THE large proportion of young families and people with a tertiary education in the area means education and childcare are at the forefront of residents' consideration for our future government.
The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW metropolitan vice-president Naomi Hammond said political policy needed to focus on appropriate funding that allowed schools to finance repair projects and maintenance, as well as improving resources.
She said there should be a commitment to the Gonski initiative.
"And we definitely need more resources for students with special needs," Ms Hammond, from western Sydney, said.
She believes education policy should also look at incentives to keep kids in school for longer and is disappointed the school laptop program for years 9 to 12 was discontinued.
She said future policy based on technology needed to ensure students from lower-income families weren't unfairly disadvantaged.
She feared the "bring your own device" program — where students bring their own laptop or tablet to school — could do this, especially for families with several children.
"Politicians need to stop putting themselves first and start focusing on our kids," Ms Hammond said.
"Without that support we're not setting ourselves up for the best future possible."
Asked how their party’s policy would assist local residents with cost of childcare and education, Mitchell’s candidates said the following:
■ ALEX HAWKE, LIBERAL: The Coalition has committed to match the dollar-for-dollar commitments already made by the government to schools over the next four years. We will work with the states and territories to deliver a better education system through better teaching, better teachers, more community engagement, more principal autonomy, as well as through fair funding. In regard to childcare, parents are paying more on childcare fees due to Labor’s decision to cap and freeze the childcare rebate in 2011. This has been extended out to 2017. The Coalition will address the cost of childcare through our Productivity Commission inquiry into the sector, which aims to make childcare affordable, accessible and flexible. The government has done little to help families, given childcare costs have blown out by 23 per cent since the last election.
■ ANDREW PUNCH, LABOR: As a father of two young children I value the contribution quality childcare and early childhood learning can make to family life. I am proud of Labor policy which has boosted the childcare rebate to 50 per cent — up to $7500 a child a year — and the $450 million in new funding to provide more flexible opening hours and more places in outside-of-school-hours care. Families can claim the rebate as long as their child is in care. Since July 1, 2011, families have been able to receive the Child Care Rebate fortnightly. The $10 billion in additional funding under the Better Schools Plan is a funding model designed to meet each child’s needs, regardless of whether the school is public, independent or Catholic. The model gives weighting that delivers additional funding and resources to students who experience social economic disadvantage, to ensure that no child is left behind.
■ MURRAY SCHULTZ, PALMER UNITED PARTY: We will be a government of responsible spending and compassionate help. I am extremely passionate about reducing the infant mortality rate in Aboriginal children. It’s our nation’s shame and something I can fix. The money in the government bank accounts is a staggering negative $370 billion, so don’t be taken as a fool by empty pre-election promises. Here is a good analogy. Think of this government as the nicest rental property, but the occupants are trashing it, the place is a mess and they are letting unknown people in the back door; children are dying as they arrive. For the last seven years the government has used every excuse saying they will fix it, and now they want three more years? So when it comes to education, child care or any other screw-ups by these two parties PUP will set the processes right, fairly and fully costed.
■ MICHAEL BELLSTEDT, THE GREENS: The childcare sector is facing a critical lack of available places, resulting in long waiting lists. Parents are also struggling to find child care which is affordable and flexible. The Greens have announced a capital grants fund that would see $200 million rolled out to community and not-for-profit centres over four years, increasing the number of available places in child care. With a priority to fund centres in high need areas, a capital grants fund would help these organisations overcome the initial difficulty of securing capital loans. The Greens want to improve the quality of our public schools and we want better assistance for kids with disabilities. We have a costed policy to increase funding for the Gonski school reforms by $2 billion, bringing total funding to $5 billion. We will also reverse the $2.3 billion in university funding cuts and would further increase university funding by 10 per cent.
■ DARRYL ALLEN, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: According to the Sydney Morning Herald (August 11, 2013) demand for childcare has soared 20 per cent since 2008 and 65 per cent of mothers are now in the workforce. Due to financial pressure the majority of parents are handing over more of their children’s care to others. The bond between parent and child is widening. Families are being torn apart by financial stress, work and social pressures. Our party supports policies that would provide more quality time for building parent and child relationships. Equally dividing the taxable income of couples in single income families should be considered as one step in the right direction. The political promise of billions of dollars based on the recommendations of the Gonski report should be viewed with scepticism. Since 2007 the net worth of $70 billion surplus of funds has jumped to $147.3 net debt. Australian needs innovative educational policies, not political bribery.
■ NATHANIEL DODD, DEMOCRATIC LABOUR PARTY: No response provided.
Asked how their party’s policy would assist local residents with the cost of childcare and education, Berowra’s candidates said the following:
■ PHILIP RUDDOCK, LIBERAL: Childcare and education are two very important policy areas for families. This year I was lucky enough to host a childcare forum and speak with local childcare owners on what the Coalition will do. Childcare needs to be more affordable, accessible and flexible. The Coalition will direct a Productivity Commission review into the whole sector, so we can develop a system that is more responsive and flexible to the needs of parents. On school education, I’m glad the Coalition recently announced that we will match all commitments already made to schools by Labor for the next four years, providing funding certainty into the future. But of course, good schools aren’t just a matter of more money. Better teaching, better teachers, community engagement and principal autonomy are all important, and Coalition priorities.
■ JOHN STOREY, THE GREENS: As a physics teacher in the university sector for 30 years, I am committed to education as the key to our future prosperity and happiness. Our young people must be given every opportunity. We will increase childcare places and affordability with a $200 million capital grants scheme over the next four years, for upgrading and expanding childcare centres. Disadvantaged and vulnerable youth, who are at most risk of homelessness, abuse and suicide, need our support in the form of a structured, long-term commitment. All our young people deserve quality education from preschool to university and beyond. The Gonski recommendations must be implemented promptly and fully. We will reverse the recent $2.3 billion cuts to universities, and increase per student funding by 10 per cent over the next four years. Funding for art, music and languages must also increase.
■ LEIGHTON THEW, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: If elected, I would pursue the following educational initiatives:
• Affirm and support the primary role of parents in their children’s education;
• Support for an Education Voucher System;
• All private schools should have the right to select staff according to their schools’ values;
• Remove “social engineering” courses from the curriculum and return to an emphasis on the three Rs;
• Promote and retain chaplaincy and Special Religious Education in all schools;
• Support the HECS system at all levels of tertiary education and also re-training for displaced workers; and
• Introduction of school education programs preparing for marriage as well as pre-marriage counselling covering practical issues (e.g. budgeting, financial management).
■ DEBORAH SMYTHE, STABLE POPULATION PARTY: We recognise that promoting workforce participation is economically important. Removing disincentives for women with children to work is a necessary goal. Therefore childcare needs to be affordable and available. This policy also helps to stop the impetus to import more labour from overseas, when local labour could be used instead. We are committed to supporting education and training for all Australians. We want advanced, knowledge-based industries to flourish in Australia to provide a resilient economy — an economy that is not reliant on population growth to stay prosperous. We are concerned that overcrowding in schools is happening as a result of population growth. By achieving a stable population of 23 to 26 million through our two-pronged approach of limiting government birth payments to a woman’s first two children, and adopting a balanced migration program where permanent immigration is equivalent to permanent emigration, the pressure on overstretched infrastructure like schools can be relieved.
■ MICHAEL STOVE, LABOR: No response provided.
■ PAUL GRAVES, PALMER UNITED PARTY: No response provided.