Parents and teachers rallied outside the New South Wales parliament in Sydney last week to deliver a petition containing over 10,000 signatures opposing the state government’s plan to amalgamate two schools in the NSW central coast region—Gosford Public and Henry Kendall High.
The proposed merger of the primary and secondary schools is part of a wider cost-cutting agenda set in motion by the previous state Labor government—a drive that has been intensified by the current Liberal-National Party government of Premier Barry O’Farrell and the federal Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. According to recent media reports, five other schools in NSW were closed down at the end of last year and four others are under review.
In June 2010, the previous state Labor government unveiled a plan to sell Gosford Public, established in 1865 and located in Gosford’s central business district on prime waterfront land.
It was a day that most members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at Edward Wilson primary school never expected to see—the day they voted against strike action.
In every dispute for many years, NUT members at the London school have voted unanimously for stoppages to defend wages and conditions. But the last year has seen the teachers become increasing frustrated with the unions’ token campaign against the attack on pensions by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, while they did nothing at all to fight against job cuts.
The teachers at Edward Wilson had taken part in the largest strike seen in Britain in 30 years involving 2.5 million public sector workers in 20 different unions on November 30.
As many as 1,000 students, academics and general staff members demonstrated at the University of Sydney on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the planned destruction of up to 340 jobs by next semester. The event was organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Education Action Group, which is politically dominated by pseudo-left groups such as Solidarity and Socialist Alternative.
The protest was the second since the academic year began. The significant turn-out revealed the extent of concern over the threatened job losses and the wider assault on tertiary education that is being driven by the Gillard Labor government’s “education revolution” agenda. Insufficient funding has led to expanded class sizes and over-stretched facilities. Academic and staff positions are being slashed at universities around the country to cut costs.
On Tuesday, dozens of students were pepper sprayed by campus police at Santa Monica College while protesting outside a Board of Trustees meeting.
At least two people were hospitalized and several others injured when a crowd of 100 people tried to enter the room where the meeting was being held. Students were opposed to plans for a two-tier tuition scheme, whereby the college will charge students triple for popular courses that fill up quickly.
Videos posted on the internet showed a crowd of students gathered outside the meeting room chanting, “Let us in!” and “Shame on you!”
The campus police refused to let them in during the public comments section, saying the room was at capacity. An overflow room was set up but could not accommodate the number of people there. When students demanded a larger room, this request was denied.
Parents in Adelanto, California, recently experienced the consequences of the state’s so-called “parent trigger” law, which allows public schools to be changed to charters on the initiative of parents. As events in Adelanto demonstrate, this law is susceptible to systematic abuse by advocates of privatized education.
The Adelanto Elementary School District board of education voted at the beginning of March to deny a petition to transform Desert Trails Elementary school into a charter. Petitioners, backed by an organization calling itself Parent Revolution, claim to have gathered signatures from the parents of 70 percent of Desert Trails students. Opponents of Parent Revolution claim that many of the signatures were gathered under false pretenses.