For everyone Why the Liberals don’t deserve your vote

More than ever, Victoria needs a government that prioritises investment in public education and support for its workforce.

Ensuring that all Victorians can access high-quality public education is one of the most important goals of our state government. Without that commitment, a government’s actions can be catastrophic – as we witnessed 30 years ago under Liberal leader Jeff Kennett.

Kennett took a wrecking ball to public education, closing 350 schools; sacking 7,000 teachers; throwing out industrial agreements and introducing fixed-term contracts; instigating fees for kindergarten; and cutting $500 million from the state education budget, none of it mentioned prior to the election.

A similar approach continued under the Liberal Baillieu/Napthine governments in 2010–14, with billions of dollars cut from education, TAFE campuses closed and
fees increased; the Education Maintenance Allowance for disadvantaged students scrapped; Gonski funding not passed on, denying vital resources to public schools;
and a protracted dispute over the 2013 Schools Agreement, with Baillieu wanting to introduce performance pay.

To avoid a crisis in public education, we must elect a government that will invest in its workforce, which is in turn a direct investment in students.

When considering your vote, it pays to look at each party’s track record as well as their promises. We need to ensure that Victoria is led by a government that values and prioritises public education through their own budgets and their funding agreements with the federal government.

Given the many challenges public education communities and our members currently face, this support has become more important than ever. The pandemic has highlighted longstanding inequities and exposed the impact of chronic underfunding on staff and students alike.

We are seeing too many teachers leave the sector due to exhaustion, stress and burnout, and not enough new entrants being attracted. To avoid a crisis in public education, we must elect a government that will invest in its workforce, which is in turn a direct investment in students.

The Liberals are yet to make any commitments on funding for schools or TAFEs, or the expansion of three and four-year-old kinder programs.

The Andrews Labor government has announced important additional, albeit limited, measures to address workforce shortages, with a focus on hard-to-staff schools, including programs to encourage the return of experienced staff and attract new teachers. Andrews has also announced funding for new schools and upgrades, along with 50 new early childhood centres to be co-located with primary schools, making their infrastructure spend around $1 billion a year since first elected back in 2014.

During their current term, the Andrews government has funded mental health support, the Tutor Learning Initiative, and 1,900 additional teachers to reduce face-to-face teaching and reduce workloads. Andrews has also pledged to negotiate with the federal government to see public schools funded to 100% of the schooling resource standard, launched fee-free preschool for all three and four-year-olds, and promised to direct 70% of overall vocational education and training funding to our public TAFE system – something for which the AEU has been campaigning for almost 15 years.

In contrast, Matthew Guy’s Liberal opposition has remained silent on TAFE and early childhood. In schools, they are again calling for a full review of the ‘cluttered curriculum’; angling to put mandatory phonics at the centre of literacy teaching; and promising free lunches for public school students by 2026.

Labor has a demonstrated track record of investing in schools, TAFE, and early childhood.

The Liberals are yet to make any commitments on the overall funding arrangements for schools or TAFEs, or to address workforce shortages, teacher workloads, or the expansion of three and four-year-old kinder programs. Instead, they have made some funding announcements for individual schools, which will do nothing to address the overall needs of the public education system, let alone AEU members, who are at its core.

Labor has a demonstrated track record of investing in schools, TAFE, and early childhood. While it is clear they must do more – especially regarding excessive workloads and teacher shortages – the Andrews government has announced funded strategies that respond to many of the critical needs of public education.

Research shows that teachers, educational leaders and support staff are among the most trusted voices in the community. In the lead up to the election, we urge you to talk to your colleagues, family and friends about the importance of public education. Ask them to vote for the candidates who will best support you and your students.

The Liberals have shown that they cannot be trusted with public education. Putting public education first means putting the Liberals last.

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    As we gear up for a state election, the AEU is focused on holding the Andrews government to account when it comes to fair funding for public education and a plan for addressing staff shortages that respects and values the profession. Read more in our Term 3, 2022 edition of AEU News.

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