Australia/April 22, 2022/By: Paul Karp/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
AEU president backed funding announcement but criticised lack of timeline, while noting Coalition had offered ‘nothing at all’
The teacher’s union has criticised Labor’s education policy for a “concerning” lack of detail about when public schools will get extra funding.
Australian Education Union president, Correna Haythorpe, welcomed the policy to put public schools on a “pathway” to full funding but said the lack of a timeline “is of concern to us”.
Before the 2019 election Labor promised $14bn over 10 years for public education, but the policy was dropped after it was identified in Labor’s election review as one of the expensive items that required the opposition to propose more revenue raising measures.
Last week, the shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, said Labor had not recommitted to that spending because the current school funding agreements run to the end to 2023 and need to be renegotiate with the states.
“We’ll work with every state and territory to get every school on a pathway to reaching its fair funding level,” she said.
Public schools receive 20% of the schooling resourcing standard (SRS) from the federal government and 75% from the states, creating a gap of 5% that needs to be closed.
Given 2.6 million students are in the public system and each costs the government an average of $20,180 a year, education stakeholders estimate bringing public schools up to the SRS could cost $2.6bn a year.
Haythorpe said that Labor’s commitment was “clear but plain”: to negotiate new agreements with the states to help achieve fair funding, but without a specific funding commitment or timeframe.
“We could deeply navel gaze about [what that means], but there is simply no information beyond a ‘pathway’ to achieve 100% funding, to be negotiated after the election.”
“There is no timeline, that is of concern to us. We want to achieve 100% funding in a meaningful way, as soon as possible.”
Haythorpe said a timeline would “provide certainty”, but still praised Labor for committing to the principle of full funding, in contrast to the Coalition which had offered “nothing at all”.
Plibersek said that “halfway through an agreement, as we are now, we’re not going to start talking about what would be in the next agreement”.
“What we can say is every school, every underfunded public school, will be better off under Labor, and Catholic and independent schools will not have their funding touched, they’ll continue to receive the funding that they’re receiving now under the same funding formula.”
“We want to make sure that every child in every school in every part of Australia gets the chance of a world class education.
“In contrast, this government has seen Australian school kids go backwards in international testing.”
In January Labor promised $440m for new grant funding to help students and teachers manage the pandemic, for projects such as better ventilation, building upgrades and mental health services.
Labor has also promised up to 20,000 extra university places over 2022 and 2023, and 465,000 free Tafe places in nominated areas of skills shortages.
In January the Greens proposed giving public schools $49bn over 10 years, to fully fund all costs including out-of-pocket fees charged to parents and guardians.
The AEU will be spending $3.5m on its election campaign, which calls for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding and says that “[Scott] Morrison must go” to achieve this.
The union has printed 1m leaflets for its target electorates and 650,000 for its supporters to letterbox drop.
Target electorates include Eden Monaro, Macquarie and Robertson in New South Wales; Corangamite and Chisholm in Victoria; Swan, Pearce and Hasluck in Western Australia; Bass and Braddon in Tasmania; and Boothby in South Australia.
After the March budget, Plibersek and the AEU accused the Morrison government of cutting $560m from public schools relative to the 2021-22 budget.
In April, education department officials told Senate estimates although there was a $560m reduction relative to last year’s projections, public school funding was still increasing by $1.5bn over four years.
The deputy secretary for schools, Ros Baxter, said no student would miss out because funding is uncapped and demand-driven. “Every student who is there with the characteristics they have attracts the funding they’re entitled to.”
The $560m decreased projection reflects a “combination of census data, trends of attrition and ABS population data”, she said.
Labor senator Louise Pratt said the AEU had calculated the figure implied an assumption that there would be “55,000 fewer students” in the public system in 2024, which Baxter rejected.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.