With the Andrews government re-elected, getting Victorian public schools funded to at least 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) must be first on their agenda – and in the new year, public school communities must campaign together to see this achieved.
Like the federal Albanese government, Premier Andrews has committed to ultimately reaching that level of funding, but not to a timeframe. This commitment is welcome – however, what matters is not only that the full SRS is delivered, but when it is delivered.
The stakes have never been higher. Our public schools are now suffering the cumulative effects of chronic underfunding for almost an entire generation of students. They urgently need greater resources to address the learning and welfare needs of students and to support their staff – our members – by addressing excessive workloads, teacher burnout and the subsequent staffing shortages.
The AEU has been campaigning for funding justice for public schools for over 15 years. Our campaigns have delivered billions of dollars in additional funding, but we are still billions of dollars short.
Surely, any ‘Education State’ worth its name fully funds its public schools, at a minimum. An Education State delivers more time and support for teachers to undertake vital planning and preparation, and less unnecessary administration. More resources to support students with disability and learning needs, and to manage students with challenging behaviours. More teachers and support staff in each classroom, additional subject choices, and smaller class sizes.
Importantly, an Education State delivers full funding so that schools can meet their employees’ industrial entitlements, including time in lieu. If the government is serious about fixing the shortage crisis, giving schools the resources to support their staff to do their jobs without it costing their health would be a good place to start.
The next schools funding deal will be negotiated in 2023. The Albanese government must increase its share of the funding, but so too must the Andrews government. At the end of the next funding cycle, it cannot be the case that we are still short of the mark.
In September, when the Productivity Commission released its hobbled report into elements of the current National School Reform Agreement, Victoria’s education minister Natalie Hutchins was reported in the Australian Financial Review as saying it was “unacceptable that private and Catholic schools were receiving more funding than public schools”. Adding: “It’s unacceptable that non-government schools receive 100% of the schooling resource standard while government schools only get 95%.”
Next year, Victorian public schools are only funded to 90.4% of the SRS. That is $1,991 per student less than the amount due. For a school of 500 students that is almost $1 million that they are not receiving – the equivalent of nine or ten additional staff members. In the Education State, that is more than unacceptable. It is shameful.