ALP’s funding promise

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18 December 2018

The next federal election will be fought and won on the guarantee of fair funding for public schools.

Voters will have the opportunity to guarantee fair funding for public schools at the next federal election.

They face a clear choice. On one hand, a commitment by a Shorten Labor government to provide extra funding for every public school will see more teachers in classrooms, smaller class sizes, and more one-on-one individual attention for public school students.

On the other hand, the Morrison government’s $1.9 billion cut to funding promised to public schools in 2018 and 2019, and continued federal cap on public school funding, will mean public school students will not get the opportunities they deserve.

If elected, Labor has pledged to deliver an extra $14.1 billion for public schools over the next decade. Importantly, this commitment includes a $3.3 billion investment in public schools in the first three years.In addition, Labor has promised to smash the Morrison government’s arbitrary 20 per cent Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) funding cap, which will bring public schools much closer to 100 per cent of the SRS.

Federal AEU President Correna Haythorpe said Labor’s public school funding commitments have the potential to transform public schools and provide many more opportunities for public school students. However, she said that there is still a lot of work to do to elect a government that will put public schools first.

“Labor’s commitment to invest an additional $14.1 billion into public schools is a game-changing policy announcement and a huge achievement for the Fair Funding Now! community,” says Haythorpe.

“It means every public school will have extra funds to invest in more teachers and more classroom support for those children who need it,” she says.

“This is an excellent development and is largely due to the years of hard work by the Fair Funding Now! movement in building community support for public school funding. However, our work isn’t finished. We need to keep up the pressure to ensure we elect a government that puts public schools first.”

Labor’s pledge includes a commitment to working with the states and territories to bring all public schools up to 100 per cent of the SRS. A Labor government would immediately increase the Commonwealth share to 22.5 per cent (with 25 per cent for NT schools) by 2022.

The promised funding will put student needs at the centre of funding decisions and recognises the extra need in disadvantaged schools.

A difference for students

Principal Karen Terry from Victoria’s St Helena Secondary College said that investing extra public school funding into staff development would make a huge difference for her students.

“I’d be trying to free up my teachers more so they have less face-to-face classroom time, so that they can get into each other’s classrooms,” says Terry. “That way they can drill down into the data with the kids, they can spend time planning together and actually individualising the program. For me it would be about having more staff on board and targeting when they worked.”

For Cathy Anderson, principal at NSW’s Chifley College Mount Druitt campus, extra funding would make a huge difference to students and teachers.

“We have a lot of new teachers and we do reduce their loads by two periods per week, but it would be great to have the funding to give new teachers a half load, and to have them transition into schooling where we would actually have developed programs of inservice so that they would develop their skills at the same time.”

Principal Peter Adams from Victoria’s Pascoe Vale North Primary School said that using extra funding to reduce class sizes would be transformational for his students.

“I would use the funding for more teachers to support classroom teachers’ efforts to reduce class sizes, and to provide more support outside of the classroom for kids,” says Adams.“More support from education support staff and from teacher aides is the stuff that makes a vital difference to kids.”

Labor has released data showing exactly how much extra money every public school could expect to receive during the first three years of a Shorten government. Voters can see just how much their school will get by visiting www.fairgoforschools.com.au.

The Public Education Election

Earlier this year the Morrison government announced a $4.6 billion special funding deal for private schools, while giving nothing extra to public schools. Recent polls have shown that voters weren’t impressed.

According to a recent ReachTel poll in marginal federal electorates in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, more than seven in 10 undecided voters disapprove of the Morrison government’s private school special deal. Meanwhile, more than eight in 10 voters said that education would be important in deciding who they voted for at the upcoming federal election.

While public support for the fair funding of public schools has always been strong, the figures show public school funding will be a crucial issue at the next federal election.

The campaign isn’t over

Haythorpe said that while these poll results were encouraging, it was vital for the Fair Funding Now! community to keep up the pressure going into the next federal election.

“We are still waiting for a commitment to a $300 million capital work fund for public schools, indexed each year with enrolment growth and rising costs. Also, appropriate support for children with a disability to ensure every child is able to access a high-quality education.

“It’s crucial that we keep talking to parents, voters and communities about the importance of fair funding for public schools,” says Haythorpe.

“Recent developments show that the issue has developed momentum – now is the time to roll up our sleeves and keep the Fair Funding Now! campaign moving ahead.”

“The strength of the Fair Funding Now! campaign is a clear indication that cutting funding for public schools is a major issue of national concern, and a major misstep by the Morrison government. We will continue to take our message to the people and ensure that they hear our message.”

The Fair Funding Now! campaign will escalate into next year’s federal election. The recent national ‘Do Your Block’ event saw thousands of educators, parents and other supporters take the Fair Funding Now! message to their neighbourhoods. Supporters distributed tens of thousands of brochures to homes in marginal electorates across the country.

The back-to-school period next year will kick off with Fair Funding Now! campaign visits to regional communities across the country, culminating on the Parliament House lawns in Canberra. “It will be a very hands-on engagement with local people,” says Haythorpe.

“We’ll be sharing the story in every school community about the importance of funding public schools properly and showing the difference between the major political parties,” Haythorpe says.

“In the lead-up to the next federal election, our Fair Funding Now! tour will send a strong message to politicians in Canberra about the importance of fair funding for our public schools.”

Haythorpe said that campaign supporters would not stop working until a federal government was elected that would put public schools first.

“The fight to restore fair funding for public schools is the most important task for our union going into 2019 and I know that the community is with us in securing a better future for our children,” Haythorpe says.

In short

  • Labor has promised an extra $14.1 billion for public schools over the next decade.
  • The promised funding would recognise additional needs in disadvantaged schools.
  • The Fair Funding Now! campaign will continue to ramp up ahead of the federal election.

Fairer funding now

The government should immediately reverse its $1.9 billion cut to public schools for 2018 and 2019.

Appropriate resources for all schools

Agreements should be struck between the Commonwealth and the states and territories to ensure public schools are funded to 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023. The 20 per cent cap on the Commonwealth share of the SRS should be removed from the Australian Education Amendment Act.

Upgraded classrooms and facilities

A capital fund should be established for public schools to help meet rising enrolments and ensure all students are educated in classrooms and learning spaces where their needs can be met.
That fund, recommended by the Gonski Review, should be $300 million in 2018 and increase each year in line with enrolment growth and rising costs.

More support for students with disability

The Turnbull government’s cuts to disability funding should be reversed. The National School Resourcing Board should immediately review the three levels of funding for students with disability to better align them with the actual costs of delivering high-quality education.