Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge says that he is “pleased that the school funding wars are now over”. From the start of his ministry, Tudge has spruiked his devotion for Teach for Australia and his government’s efforts when it comes to education. “Record levels” of funding, he claims.
What he doesn’t say is that this increased funding continues to be directed disproportionally to private schools at the cost of fair and adequate funding for our nation’s public schools.
He doesn’t talk about the fact that, largely due to the lack of Commonwealth funding, public schools in Victoria will get nowhere near the government’s own benchmark funding level – the schooling resource standard (SRS).
He doesn’t talk about the fact that almost all private schools are funded to the SRS or well beyond – meaning that, by definition, those students who need the least funding – because of their relative socioeconomic advantage – receive more support than those in public schools. This, despite the fact that public schools educate more than 80% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Nor does he talk about the direct connection between the underfunding of public schools and the excessive workloads experienced by those who work in them.
The minister can carry on all he likes about the end of the funding wars, but his government’s actions are having the opposite effect – entrenching division and inequality.
The minister can carry on all he likes about the end of the funding wars, but his government’s actions are having the opposite effect – entrenching division and inequality. It’s hardly surprising. Treating public school staff and students as second-class citizens is part of the Liberal Party’s DNA. Alan Tudge is just another minister in the conga line of Coalition ministers who refuse to fund our schools properly.
As The Age reported in June, the wealthiest private schools are now worth “a massive $8.5 billion and accumulated assets at a greater rate than the property market or the stock exchange between 2015 and 2019. [They also] have hundreds of millions invested in the share market, reaping big financial returns while also receiving more than $600 million a year in government funding.”
More than 15 years ago, the AEU determined to campaign for a change to the federal model of school funding in Australia – one that would achieve funding justice for our public schools. No matter how many times Liberal ministers try to convince the public that school funding doesn’t matter when it comes to student achievement, AEU members know all too well how much more they could do for their students if they had greater resources. They also know the impact of limited funding on their workloads and associated stress levels.
Union campaigning and member activism have been directly responsible for securing billions of extra dollars for public schools. In Term 2, the AEU launched the next phase of its national campaign, ‘Every School, Every Child’. We cannot rest while the federal government continues to deny public schools the funding they need to achieve manageable workloads for staff and to give all students the opportunity to meet their full potential – as every child deserves.