A local Fianna Fáil councillor is vowing to continue his campaign against education cuts imposed by his own party.
Mullingar Town Council’s Ken Glynn says the Minister for Education and Science has to deal with the issues facing schools in his electoral area and he will continue to fight in the hope that changes are made.
And he’s not afraid of a backlash from within the party for his views that don’t toe the party’s line since the Budget.
Speaking to the Advertiser he said that as a father of two school-going children and board member of a local school, he felt obliged to write personally to the Minister when the cuts were made late last year.
“Schools and education are the wrong place to be targeting. I wrote directly to the Minister and explained that as a parent and member of the Board of Management I knew first hand the effect of these cuts.
“I indicated that as a party we had done a lot and we shouldn’t take it all way in one swoop.” The Minister did write back explaining the rationale behind the cuts, but Glynn remains dissatisfied.
He has contacted all the schools in his electoral area and asked them what effect the cuts will have on them. This information will be compiled into a document which Cllr Glynn hopes will help the Minister see the error of his ways.
Already “a good few schools” have written back and while he would not go into detail on what specific schools were concerned about, he did say that one of their key worries was the proposed cut in resource teachers.
He says that in some schools in the town up to 50 per cent of a class of 24 children could be non-Irish. Removing resource teachers would have a devastating effect on them and on other students in the class.
“If the language resource teacher is not there, they will fall behind,” and “if the teacher has to give more time to struggling students, everyone else will suffer too”.
Some schools in town say that they could lose up to three teachers from their staff and Cllr Glynn says the Minister will have to take “a strong look” at the situation.
He admitted that the Minister had rowed back on proposed cuts in cover for absent teachers, but said it is “not acceptable in modern Ireland” that we could end up with 28 students in classes.
This would be the highest average across Europe. “The Minister has to deal with that. Our children are our future. The Minister has to deal with that.”
He said he would continue to campaign publicly for changes to the cuts and would not be stepping down from the party, despite his trenchant opposition to their education policy as outlined in one of the toughest budgets in years.
“What does Ken Glynn do in Fianna Fáil? In Fianna Fáil I can make a difference as a member of a party,” he said as he rejected suggestions that his campaign might make him unpopular within a party that has enough headaches of its own without an upstart councillor kicking at the shins of the Minister.
“I’m representing the people. The party selected me to do that. It’s not the first time I’ve taken issues on board.”
He said he’s not looking for personal publicity either – if he was, he’d have the schools’ details splashed across all the local papers, he added, “I could publish all the details but I respect the schools”.
So how does he think he’s going to make a difference? The material will be compiled into a document and sent to the Minister. Cllr Glynn believes that on a one-to-one basis like this, the Minister will be convinced of the need to back down on the cuts. The alternative is that he could be “shouting and doing nothing”.
Is he hopeful?
“The Minister has made changes to one part as a claw-back. I’m hopeful of more changes. Doing this may get results and that’s the way I’m going to fight it.”