Parliament Square off! XL Bully owners clash with pro-EU activists mocked for their interpretive dancing as the groups hold marches in London at the same…
Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
A $12,000 tax on a tiny special needs school has been dismissed as a modest imposition, with Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson insisting everyone has a role in paying off the state’s ballooning $116 billion net debt.
The state opposition accused the government of doubling down on a mistake after Andale School found itself on a list of 60 non-government schools no longer exempt from payroll tax, alongside Geelong Grammar and Scotch College.
Children at Andale School on Tuesday.Credit: Eddie Jim
The Kew school, which has just 22 students with additional learning needs, was automatically included because it charges students slightly more than the $15,000 a year threshold. It will lose $12,000 next financial year and $7500 the year after.
Pearson dug in on Thursday after the school community expressed its concern and surprise with The Age.
“I think that’s a modest imposition on the school,” Pearson said. “I think we’ve all got a role to play to make sure we can repay this debt.”
Local Liberal MP Jess Wilson wrote to Education Minister Natalie Hutchins last month as soon as the final list of 60 schools was confirmed and assumed Andale was included in error, particularly once the number of targeted schools was reduced, slicing the benefit to the budget by $100 million.
“If $100 million in foregone revenue is manageable and a relatively minor number according to the treasurer, why is the Andrews government so stubbornly taxing Andale $12,000 a year?” Wilson said.
“This was surely a mistake. Instead of doubling down, it’s not too late for the Andrews government to do the right thing and remove Andale School from their schools tax hit list.”
Andale, which rents its land from the neighbouring Uniting Church, charges $15,716 a year for its students.
Often, they are neurodivergent and have already tried mainstream schools without success. They benefit from small classrooms, teachers qualified in special education, and an occupational therapist, speech therapist and psychologist.
Federal independent local member Monique Ryan on Thursday joined in calls to exempt the school, believing the state government must be ignorant of its purpose and value.
“It’s the most beautiful little school. This is just crazy, the state government hasn’t quite realised what they’re doing here,” Ryan said.
“The reason why the fees are a bit higher than most schools is because they have a lot of staff.”
Parent council president Murray Nicol was seeking meetings with Hutchins, Treasurer Tim Pallas, and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers Lizzie Blandthorn and hoped to invite them to the school to see its good work.
Andale School principal Justin Walsh and parent council president Murray Nicol.Credit: Eddie Jim
“It’s not about getting ‘the best education’ and sending them to an elite private school,” Nicol told The Age this week. “It’s the only choice.”
Principal Justin Walsh said most of Andale’s budget went towards wages, supporting a high ratio of staff to students that helped stop children falling through the cracks.
“A lot of them have come from a mainstream setting where they have lost confidence in themselves as learners. If you think you’re not a good learner, you’re not going to be a good learner,” he said on Tuesday.
“We reinvest everything that comes in into staffing mainly, but then into the programs we put in place. We don’t want to be skimping on any of the programs we provide to the students, especially around literacy and numeracy. We don’t want to be cutting back on therapy supports either.”
Dr Kirsty Young, from the University of Technology, Sydney, said the benefits of individualised support and allied health outweighed any costs and that it would be “cause for concern” if the school had to cut back.
She supported full inclusion, which would phase out special schools, but said mainstream schools were not yet able to cater for the needs of all students to allow them to flourish.
“If these students are supported in literacy and language development, it’s going to improve their outcomes … That has got to be an advantage for everyone, including the government,” Young said.
Pearson noted public special schools, which are government-funded, paid payroll tax back to the government.
Get the day’s breaking news, entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up to receive our Evening Edition newsletter here.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article