You and your colleagues have made it clear that too many students are missing out on the extra assistance they need to access the promise of a high-quality public education. In other words, members do not have the resources they need to properly support the learning and welfare of their students. This is hardly surprising when you consider that every Victorian student receives $1,971 less on average per year than the benchmark funding set by the federal government and endorsed by the state government.
Whether it be support for students with disability or learning difficulties, greater assistance for students with complex behaviour needs, ensuring access to a breadth of curriculum programs for all year levels in all schools, proper resourcing for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, extra funding for those in regional and rural schools, or appropriate support for Aboriginal students, the fact remains our schools are not funded to the level they should be.
Back in 2018, the AEU called on the next state government to make a range of essential investments in our public schools. We wanted at least $1 billion per year spent on new schools and building upgrades, increased planning and preparation time for teachers, reduced class sizes, greater intervention support for students, a significant boost for funding for students with disability, improved funding for Koorie students, more resources for careers, and greater access to professional development for teachers, ES, and school leaders, among many other things.
The pandemic has laid bare what members have known for too long – an underfunded public education system doesn’t serve our students now or into the future, and it certainly doesn’t serve our profession.
The Andrews government has delivered in part, with substantial funding for building works, a new disability inclusion model, and investment in the profession through reduced face-to-face teaching hours and an additional 2,000 teachers. But the inconvenient fact for Premier Andrews is that Victorian schools remain the lowest funded of any state or territory in the nation. Only additional investment will address that. And, for what it’s worth, at this stage of the election cycle, there are no substantive policy announcements from the Liberal opposition for public education, either.
The pandemic has laid bare what members have known for too long – an underfunded public education system doesn’t serve our students now or into the future, and it certainly doesn’t serve our profession. As we head towards the November state election, we need to campaign for a better deal. Otherwise, you and your colleagues won’t get the resources you need to do your work.
The next state government must deliver at least 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard. But a promise like that won’t just happen; we need to build the pressure. And while we’re talking pressure – the next state government would do well to boldly tackle the issue of teacher supply. Reducing workload is central to keeping teachers in our schools, and a plan to attract the next generation of teachers would be a real investment in creating the Education State.