Teacher and Greens hopeful probed over climate ‘strike’
GREENS candidate for Bega and high school teacher Will Douglas is facing a departmental investigation after urging students to sign up for an activist-promoted "climate change strike".
The NSW Education Department is investigating "serious questions" over Mr Douglas's actions at a youth forum at Moruya Golf Club on Thursday, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
Mr Douglas, a casual teacher at Moruya High, attended the daytime forum for 12- to 25-year-olds alongside incumbent Liberal MP Andrew Constance and Labor's Leanne Atkinson.
Mr Douglas, who was working that day, defended his actions, saying he was "on my lunch-break" while campaigning. After introducing himself as a teacher, Mr Douglas urged students: "Please don't forget March 15, the climate strike".
"If there's something happening at your school, will you please get online and register because there's a whole community out there wanting to support you guys, young people, in that strike," he said. The schoolstrike4climate.com website encourages students to play truant to "show our politicians that we're serious about climate change". It is also linked to the hardline Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
Education Minister Rob Stokes said teachers should remain neutral on political matters under the Education Department's code of conduct.
"If this teacher is found to have used his privileged position as an educator to influence students, he can face action," he said. "I'm appalled that this teacher, while being paid by the taxpayer, has sought to undertake political activity."
A department spokesman said Mr Douglas's alleged behaviour "may have breached" the code and the stated position that "all students enrolled in NSW public schools should attend classes when scheduled".
Mr Douglas said he had informed the school he would be speaking at the forum. Asked whether he had made a mistake, Mr Douglas replied: "No. I was speaking as a candidate, the students arranged the forum, it took place on my lunch-break."
"We must be working towards real action on climate change and we need everybody on board on this," he said.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said: "We are proud of our activist candidates and would suggest that anyone is able to campaign on their lunchbreak, especially about an issue so crucial for young people."
LABOR COMMITS TO GONSKI PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING BOOST
By Danielle Le Messurier
A state Labor government would invest an extra $2.7 billion in public education over eight years to make NSW the first state to fully fund schools to the Gonski standard.
Opposition Leader Michael Daley said the additional money was equivalent to $1500 for each student every year at public high schools.
But Education Minister Rob Stokes said the state's deal with the Commonwealth already "ensures that NSW schools receive more funding than any other state or territory in Australia".
Labor's commitment to fund public schools to 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard - which came out of the 2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling - by 2027 is an increase of five per cent on the 95 per cent deal struck between the federal and state government last year.
Mr Daley yesterday described the policy - which will be introduced if he becomes premier this month - as "good old-fashioned Labor".
"It means every child will be given a fair chance," he said at Labor's election campaign launch in Revesby yesterday. Labor's education spokesman Jihad Dib said "this will allow no child to fall through a crack".
Asked where the money would come from, a NSW Labor spokeswoman said all of the party's commitments were "fully funded" as it had "announced more than 20 savings and revenue measures, contributing more than $2.5 billion to the budget balance".
Mr Stokes said the policy was "light on detail and from a party that can never be trusted to deliver".