A government’s budget is the strongest indicator of their priorities. Words that address key issues are one thing; providing the resources needed to make them happen is the most important part.
The state budget, handed down in May, delivers significant investment for our public schools – but when our system remains the lowest funded in the country on a per-student basis, plenty more needs to be done.
In terms of the basic numbers, the Department of Education and Training’s 2022–23 budget increases by 3.7% compared to the previous year. For schools, once funding for population growth and forecasted inflation is taken into account, real funding growth is closer to 1.3%.
The budget delivers the next tranche of funding for the National Schools Reform Agreement between Victoria and the Commonwealth (what used to be called Gonski funding), which helps move our schools a little closer to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).
Funding for students with disability increases by 7.6%, with support services delivery funding increasing by 9.1%, primarily for student welfare and support, student transport and health services. This increase reflects the state government’s commitment to reform this area and to move away from a medical ‘diagnostic’ model for determining funding for extra support to a model based on the educational needs of the student. The boost goes a considerable way towards addressing what AEU members have been campaigning for over many years.
The budget allocates $779 million to funding the employment of 2,000 additional teachers to enable the 1.5-hour reduction in face-to-face teaching achieved by members through the VGSA 2022 – the biggest investment in boosting teacher numbers in many decades.
With almost $9 billion unallocated capital funding, we will continue to campaign in the lead up to the state election for public schools to receive their fair share.
Funding to refurbish or replace school buildings continues, as well as investment for 13 new schools (to open in 2024) and upgrades to 36 special schools. The government has promised $1.65 billion for building works over the next four years. With almost $9 billion unallocated capital funding, we will continue to campaign in the lead up to the state election for public schools to receive their fair share.
Despite years of AEU campaigning, the Andrews government has failed to make a fully fledged commitment to providing Victoria’s full share of the SRS so that public schools receive 100%, at minimum. State and federal contributions fall short by 10%. This gap amounts to $1,971 a year per public school student, representing billions of dollars. The Andrews government must create a more ambitious timeframe to meet and exceed 100% of the SRS.
Delivering at least 100% of the SRS means more funding for students with disability, a capacity to reduce class sizes, more support for students with complex behaviours, improved transitions from kindergarten to primary and secondary schooling and post-school education, a properly funded plan to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, improved access to PD, and proper funding of VET in schools.
Budgets tell us what is valued by a government – and by campaigning together, you and your AEU colleagues can deliver the extra investment needed to be properly supported as teachers, ES, and school leaders, to continue delivering a high-quality education to your students.