ONE Government TD has refuted claims that education cuts affecting smaller schools will “rip the heart of out the community” with closure of rural schools or teachers could lose their jobs, due to the new staff arrangements announced in the budget last year.
Addressing Monday’s protest meeting against budget education cuts this week, Laois/Offaly TD, Charlie Flanagan, undertook to take the “strong message” from the meeting back to the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, TD.
However, the local TD denied earlier claims that the “heart was being ripped out of the community” by these budget changes. “What we have in fact is a value for money review.”
The meeting heard that €9 billion is spent per year on the education sector and 80% of this is used to pay teachers’ wages, leaving 20% from which to fund the sector.
Deputy Flanagan noted that over the coming years there will also be an additional 70,000 children coming into the education sector and this influx will need additional facilities, new schools and other resources.
There was a few mumblings in the crowd as the local TD continued to address the meeting. Deputy Flanagan went onto refute claims that there would job losses, due the new staff arrangements made in Budget 2011.
“It is absolutely essential to point out that no teachers will lose their jobs because of this,” he stressed, pointing again to the Croke Park agreement.
It was at this point the crowd began to chant “save our schools” at the Laois/Offaly TD as he said that it was time to “remove the shackles of De Troika and the handcuffs of the IMF”.
Despite the chants, Deputy Flanagan concluded by saying that he would continue to do his best to represent the people of this rural constituency.
However, one speaker from the floor, refused to accept what the Laois/Offaly TD said, saying that “our children should not be used to remove handcuffs or shackles” from anywhere and warned that parents and teachers should not be pitched against each other during this educational protest.
Later, Fianna Fail TD, Barry Cowen told the protest meeting that they had achieved their ambition and were ‘sending a message to the politicians’. “These cuts will have huge impacts on our schools.”
He urged all rural schools to both contact the Education Minister and also their local politicians to outline their views on the budget changes and cuts. “I will continue to condemn the Government’s covert attempts to close rural schools,” he claimed as he pointed to his party’s recent Dail motion on this issue.
According to Deputy Cowen, it was another “underhanded tactic” to amalgamate smaller schools and called on Deputy Flanagan and his colleagues to take note of the views voiced at the meeting.