MP defends her direct pitch to local principals

GILMORE MP Ann Sudmalis is defending her pitch to school principals to sign up to the Abbott government’s $70 million Independent Public Schools Plan (IPS). 

Mrs Sudmalis came under fire on Wednesday after being singled out in a Sydney Morning Herald report for having sent emails to all the public school principals in her electorate, encouraging them to join the plan.

Mrs Sudmalis said the IPS Plan simply provided schools with some autonomy on how any possible funding they might receive is spent.

“They will still have the security of state government funding – they will still be under the state government control,” she said.

“It allows schools to make more decisions for themselves. Take the BER (Building the Education Revolution) funding, schools were given funding but were told they were getting a hall; they had no say how that funding was spent.

“This will allow schools, if future funding becomes available and it will in the long term, to be able to make decisions on spending that funding to their best advantage.

“They get to choose where the money goes.

“It allows parents, teachers and principals to work together and ultimately maximise the outcomes for the children.”

She said the federal government was simply inviting schools to investigate the possibility of becoming an independent public school but any negotiation had to be done through the NSW Education Department.

“We are not in opposition to the state government, we are an adjunct to it,” she said.

She said $70 million had been set aside to assist parent groups to work with principals and staff to investigate the possibility of becoming independent public schools.

“They will not be breaking away from the public system, it is about creating a more co-operative nature between parents and schools, making them more empowered,” she said.

She said the proposal has had a quiet groundswell of support and schools and parents would not be slugged with extra or a rise in fees.

“There will be no extra money for the schools or parents to pay,” she said.

“They don’t become true independent schools.”

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said since coming to office in 2011 the government had introduced major reforms which increased local school authority in public schools. 

He said the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms were introduced after wide consultation with principals, teachers and school communities and schools in NSW were already seeing the benefits of the reforms which shift decision-making and responsibility to those best placed to know the needs of students – the principals and their local school community. 

Mrs Sudmalis said up until Wednesday there had been no formal correspondence from the NSW Education Department to the federal department rejecting the plan. 

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