Budget fails schools and TAFEs

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11 May 2017

The Federal Budget has exposed Malcolm Turnbull’s schools funding plan as a sham which will end needs-based funding, widen resources gaps and increase inequity.

Individual schools will be denied hundreds of thousands of dollars of Gonski funding, and some of the most disadvantaged schools in Australia will get the smallest increases.

We now know that schools will get $3.2 billion less in 2018 and 2019 than they would have got had Mr Turnbull simply honoured the Gonski Agreements with the states.

That $3.2 billion represents thousands of students who won’t get the benefits of smaller classes, extra literacy and numeracy programs, or extra support in class.

What a contrast to Malcolm Turnbull’s generosity to business, who he is rewarding with a $48 million tax cut.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the Budget had confirmed schools will be $22 billion worse off over the next ten years than they would be under the Gonski agreements.

“This budget is hard on students and soft on big business. Schools can’t close student achievement gaps with cuts to funding – it’s that simple,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We know Malcolm Turnbull’s plan will only widen the gap of disadvantage by locking public schools into an inherently flawed model. If we go down this path, 84 per cent of public schools will be below the minimum Schooling Resource Standard by 2027 – this means children will be left behind.

“Malcolm Turnbull will not deliver genuine needs-based funding. Under his plan it is the studnets with the highest needs who have the most to lose.

Disadvantaged Schools Biggest Losers

The new model would see public schools in the NT will get the smallest increases of any sector, just 1.3% per year, less than inflation, and far less than private schools in other states. This is despite their high levels of need.

The wealthy King’s School in Parramatta would receive an extra $320,000 in 2017, while Katherine High School in the NT would get just $72,000

The cuts will effect disadvantaged schools, who have been doing great things with their Gonski funding.

Chris Presland, principal of St.Clair High School in Sydney, said that the new model would ‘wipe out’ the gains his school had made under Gonski.

His school would be getting $300,000 less in 2018 and $430,000 less in 2019 under Turnbull’s plan.

Mr Presland said the school would have to cut back on literacy and numeracy programs and would be unable to expand attendance programs that had seen a 7 per cent attendance improvement from senior students.

Further cuts to TAFEs

It wasn’t just schools that missed out: the Budget has continued the federal government’s attacks on TAFE and delivered another funding cut to vocational education.

Pat Forward, AEU Federal TAFE Secretary said spending on vocational education will be cut by almost 10 per cent from July, followed by further cuts in the budget forward estimates.

“Australians trust public TAFEs, but instead of putting money in skills programs that are designed and proven to deliver real skills for real Australians, Turnbull continues his attack on the sector – stripping millions of dollars kicking off from 1 July,” said Ms Forward.

“Turnbull’s plan of smoke and mirrors aims to cut the current National Partnership Agreement for Skills Reform with a shonky National Partnership Skilling Australians Fund that will do nothing to undo the chronic underfunding of Australia’s public TAFE system.

“To suggest visa levies will fund over 300,000 more apprentices and trainees not only demonstrates the Government’s naivety, but will be dangerous for our workforce, potentially leaving us with significant skills gaps, irretrievably damaged for generations, resulting in an ongoing need for reliance on overseas supply.

“How has the Government reached the number of 300,000 new apprentices and how can they guarantee the income from visa levies will be maintained at levels to fund these new apprentice numbers? They can’t.

“Alarmingly, the fine print outlines funding for Turnbull’s scheme can be used for ‘employer incentives’

“After an ongoing decline of funding to TAFEs over the last ten years of close to 15 per cent, there is absolutely no guarantee any new funds will be used to support TAFE or its students,” said Ms Forward.

“Government investment in TAFEs has been in free fall in recent years and we need the Federal Government to properly fund TAFEs by reinstating National Partnership funding.

“Privatisation policies have failed and we need all governments to ensure a minimum of 70 per cent of public funding is reserved for TAFEs so they can continue providing quality, accessible vocational education for all Australians.

In another attack on VET students, the Federal Government has lowered the income threshold for student debt repayments to just $42,000 per year. This is especially harsh because of the number VET students who have accrued VET FEE-HELP debts for low-quality or uncompleted courses.

Temporary preschool funding extension

The Budget confirmed Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s decision extend National Partnerships funding for four-year old preschool until the end of 2018.

This is not good enough because an important program like preschool deserves ongoing, permanent funding. The current uncertainty makes it harder for educators to plan for new programs and population growth, and to retain staff.

“All the evidence shows quality preschool sets students up to succeed in the years beyond school. We need the federal government to provide ongoing, permanent funding to preschools, not put them in a situation where they have to keep fighting for it year after year,” said Ms Haythorpe.