Budget 2018 fails to address students fees, secondary education or early years crisis - Kathleen Funchion TD
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Education Kathleen Funchion TD has said that the proposed measures missed an opportunity to address student fees, secondary level education and the early years/childcare sector staffing crisis.
Speaking in the Dáil this evening, Teachta Funchion said:
"While the Government talks about helping families in need, it is clearly ok with the ever- rising cost of third-level education becoming a crippling cost to thousands of students and their parents.
"SUSI grant thresholds need to be adjusted to allow middle income earners to be able to access the SUSI grant scheme.
"An investment of €310 million has made available to 2021 to address the infrastructure needs of higher education sector, and an increase in National Training Fund levy to add €47.5m of additional investment next year.
"Yet no meaningful investment in improving access to education through increasing SUSI grant thresholds, or improving on-campus mental health services.
"There was no new funding model announced on how third-level education should be funded nor any decrease in fees.
"The pupil-teacher ratio at second level remains higher than it was 10 years ago despite the state's economic growth in recent years.
"Last month, the OECD report Education at a Glance actually stated that spending on education in Ireland needs to rise. Schools had understandably expected to see an increase in their funding in this Budget for 2018.
"Yet spending on second-level education in Ireland as a percentage of GDP will continue below the OCED average.
"An increase in guidance counselling posts are welcomed, but these represent a move towards the restoration of schools’ 2011 guidance counselling provision, which was cut in 2012.
"HAP is not working. What good is it increasing the rate if landlords refuse tenants via that payment system? Accessing rental properties that will accept HAP remains a key barrier for families.
"Only earlier this month the Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection said that emergency accommodation denied children several rights including to health and education and it compromised their ability to develop.
"Regarding Childcare and the Early Years sector - it’s truly exasperating that no reference was made to childcare staff in this Budget or their conditions and poor pay.
"Particularly after the Dáil unanimously passed a motion I introduced last July calling for the recognition of the sector and the urgent changes needed.
"There’s an intrinsic link between the working conditions of those responsible for children and the quality of care and outcomes. International research and evidence tells us that repeatedly.
"In our Alternative Budget proposed a 2018 investment some 5 times that of this government. That's what's needed to begin creating a high quality childcare and early years sector that puts the child’s development as it’s priority as well as those who carry out the essential work in caring and educating them.
"If the Taoiseach and this Government is authentic about his commitment to creating a ‘republic of opportunity’ for all children and students from all sections of society equally, then he would seriously need to re-examine the logic of the Budget 2018 measures announced."