Today Cook and Village Creek Primary Schools closed their doors for the last time. Kambah High School was closed to make way for a P-10 ‘super school’ to be built on the site.
Parents and children at the three schools are having their lives disrupted and face higher financial costs all because the ACT Government misled the public.
Twelve months ago, the Government. decided to close these and another 9 schools (not including pre-schools) and partially close 4 others because it said we could no longer afford them. Budget figures released since then show this to be untrue.
Last financial year, the ACT achieved a Budget surplus of $90 million – a turnaround of $170million from the $80m deficit it said we faced when it announced the school closure program. This year to date it has a surplus of $170 million. Since 2001-02, the Government has accumulated surpluses of over $500million and more are projected for the next 3 years.
In the face of public dismay and anger, the Minister for Education has now changed his reasons for closing schools. Today, he stated the schools were being closed for equity reasons and to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources between schools.
This is arrant nonsense. It is low income families who are bearing the brunt of the burden of school closures. Many of the schools being closed or partially closed have a high proportion of students from low income families. The Minister obviously has no understanding what social equity means.
Parents in these schools are entitled to feel very angry at being ‘dudded’ by the Stanhope Government. They have lost the opportunity to send their children to a local school with other children in the neighbourhood.
Instead, they face increased safety risks for young children walking or cycling to and from a more distant school and many face increased financial costs in getting their children to and from school. They are also likely to lose ‘green space’ in their suburb as the Government sells off school sites.