Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 6 Hansard (23 May) . . Page.. 1678 ..
MR WOOD: I do not agree with that approach. We might have to change the standing orders. My question is also to the Minister for Education.
Ms Follett: Change the Speaker. Look who is waiting in the wings.
MR WOOD: That might be the way to do it.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Wood has the call, and he is addressing a question to Mr Stefaniak, who is entitled to hear the question.
MR WOOD: I was happy to acknowledge that interjection. Mr Stefaniak, articles on school-based management have recently been published in Feedback - the newsletter of the ACT Council of P and C Associations - and the Canberra Times. Both articles voiced the fear that school-based management is simply a cover for further cost cutting. The fear is that schools will be given additional responsibilities, then funding will be cut and schools will be left to manage as best they can. The Canberra Times said that eventually schools would be forced to make choices between staffing and resources. I come to my question. Feedback said:
... the best way to calm these fears is for the ACT Government to commit itself to future levels of education funding, perhaps through a system of rolling triennial budgets.
Minister, do you support such a view?
MR STEFANIAK: Rolling triennial budgets - that is a very interesting comment, because that is exactly what this Government has done in education during our term. We have a budget strategy. You have the figures for the next two years. That is to create stability and knowledge of exactly what is in fact available in the system. That is a step that this Government has taken. We have a commitment to maintain expenditure in real terms. As you can see, if you consult your budget papers, the education budget for 1996-97 and 1997-98 goes up according to the CPI. The other part of your question was about concerns that school-based management was a cost-cutting measure. That is not the case at all, Mr Wood. Indeed, a working party consisting of representatives of principals of the sectors, bursars, registrars and central office has been formed, and it is developing resourcing arrangements in preparation for further consultation. That will include all stakeholders. The whole idea is to go through important resourcing issues. School-based management is not seen as a means of giving schools less; it is seen as a means of giving schools more flexibility to do with their money what they want to do, for the benefit of their school community.
MR WOOD: I ask a supplementary question. Forgetting the fallacy about increased funds this year, I ask the Minister: In order to calm these anxieties, what will you do to ensure that school-based management is not used in the way that many fear it will be and that older schools or schools with very large spaces - schools that run up high maintenance bills or high energy bills - are not going to be penalised by the process you are undertaking?