I’ve always valued FF voters as most are from lifelong FF families. They don’t change their minds often. As someone who wouldn’t change his own vote, I really appreciate if an FF voter says they’ll back you. It’s something I could never say back to FF. I don’t think I’m the only Labour councillor who is getting that type of feedback lately. That’s why I admire Joe Behan and what he did, He’s turned his back on the politics of speaking out of both sides of the mouth. I note Joe Behan mentioned education cuts when he took what is a brave step in slamming the FF door shut behind him. However the focus has deliberately been taken off his courageous action by the smoke and mirrors of other FF backbenchers happy to say anything on the national airwaves on Over 70’s med cards to get the media off their back about every other cut in the budget package.
A week on from the budget and other than1982 I cannot remember a budget that has been as controversial. Medical cards for Over 70’s and the 1% levy grabbed the headlines but as a teacher I always look at education estimates and budgets. What struck me straight off was the clinical shafting of everything that schools try to do. I have never seen such a blatant attack on the majority of second level schools. Cutting every school means that well funded schools lose a little but poorly funded schools lose a lot.
There’s 32 cuts. They include grants for Home Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Equipment for Resource Teachers, Paid cover for teachers out of school on school business, Centre for Talented Youth, Educational Disadvantage Committee, 1,200 second level teaching posts and 200 other primary posts are gone. Funding for English language support teachers, secondary school buildings, LC Applied Programme, LC Vocational Programme, Transition Year, Back to Education Allowance, school libraries, school transport, IT, youth services, traveller education programme is cut. To be fair to FF & The Greens, something’s have gone up. Student Registration fees up to €1.5K, Pupil Teacher Ratio, the retirement age for some teachers and the price of books in disadvantaged schools.
If there’s one that really is beneath contempt it is their decision to postpone the EPSOM Act. This act is a commitment from 2003 and the national euphoria following the Special Olympics in Croke Park. It was a promise to those children with special needs that they would have a right to an education plan for their developmental needs. This act wouldn’t cost a bob but its funding implications for schools and services would presumably put a strain on FF and the Greens need to cut stamp duty for commercial developers or the remove value for money criteria for public contracts for Tom Parlon’s buddies. The reality is that childhood development is not like infrastructure, you cannot delay the emotional development of a child and expect that when resources allow you can come back and start up where you left off. What FF and the greens are going to learn is that school kids are not like bicycles that can be parked in a shed on a wet day and taken out when it’s sunny. This government need grinds on education and I think they’re about to get it! Next week Labour table their motion on class sizes and lets see FF TD’s support their local schools.