The AEU is a campaigning organisation. Our magazines, newsletters and bulletins have recorded countless campaigns over decades, and no doubt will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Some of these campaigns are cyclical, with the membership mobilised for a particular period of time to achieve a specific goal.
Our enterprise bargaining campaigns fit into this category, with a process that includes developing a log of claims, political action, moving into industrial action if the government hasn’t met our demands, and finally member and staff ballots to approve and certify the agreement. The VGSA 2022 is a good example, where the industrial campaign secured three-quarters of a billion dollars to reduce face-to-face teaching, the largest investment in reducing workload in more than 30 years.
Yet, the campaign to secure fair funding for our students has been different. It has been a campaign that has required continuous actions year on year to achieve our goal. And it’s no small goal. The target currently stands at approximately $1.2 billion in additional funding required to bring Victorian students up to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).
The AEU has been the loudest voice fighting for funding equity for our students – but we have not been alone. Individual champions of public education have joined us, including Jane Caro (political commentator and writer), Trevor Cobbold (economist formerly working at the Productivity Commission and national convener of Save Our Schools), and Pasi Sahlberg (former director general of education in Finland, and current Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Melbourne).
Alongside these individuals are organisations connected to education, professional associations, parents’ groups, and other representative organisations that have already taken the position that Victoria must get to 100% of the SRS. The development of these alliances remains an important part of our plan.
We also know the power of having members meet with politicians in their electorate offices – this was one of the main ways by which AEU members secured record investment in workload reduction in the VGSA 2022. We also gain a lot of traction with targeted social media campaigns, such as our “What school work are you doing this weekend?” in Term 2 of 2021, in which members spoke out about their excessive workloads.
What does this mean for members in schools? The ‘Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System’ will inform the next National School Reform Agreement, which allocates funding for schools. The review has now begun, so it is time to impress upon the federal government and all ALP politicians the importance and necessity of adequate funding for public schools.
In coming months, we will call on members to undertake campaign actions designed to persuade MPs of the merits of reaching the SRS as quickly as possible. Those actions are more powerful when parents and school staff speak up together. School councils may not be across everything that is at stake and the work the AEU is doing to secure fair funding for public schools – but this is information that you can provide, and we encourage you to start those discussions when you meet with school councillors.