KBates-tn.jpgWrong, wrong, wrong again Mr Newman…or…Let the class warfare begin

QTU President Kevin Bates comments, 7 March 2012

Queensland state schools will be robbed of much needed additional resources if the LNP wins government.

A Campbell Newman-led LNP government would direct $115 million over four years to a “Building our Future Schools Fund”. In a bizarre twist, this fund will be unfairly divided with 75% of the monies delivered to non-government schools that educate just 30% of the students. Initially delivering much less than $6000 per state school, this policy will provide schools that educate 70% of students with less than the cost of a decent shed. A simple per school calculation for non-government schools would see just under $40,000 delivered through this LNP policy: maybe just enough to deliver that shed.

Coming just two weeks after the Gonski Review found that public education in Australia had been poorly served by the funding policies of successive governments at all levels, this new LNP policy defies all logic.

Contrary to the premise which purportedly underpins the LNP policy, recent research conducted by education economist Adam Rorris1 found that, in Queensland, the capital investment gap between public and private sector schooling was in excess of $1,000 per student per year (there are more than 500,000 students in state schools). Furthermore, investment in capital infrastructure in Australian public schools is significantly below that for schools in the private sector creating “an immense gap in the resources available to public schools compared to the private sector”. Rorris’ general conclusion is that the case for substantial additional capital investment in public schools is “very strong”.

The LNP has made some attempt to cover its bases by saying that it will “properly fund” state schools, and that the new fund would be additional expenditure. Such a claim ignores the fact that state schools are completely dependent on government funding, and desperately need more funding to cater for student growth and school facility maintenance and improvement.

It is hardly surprising that the LNP apparently has no idea about the truth of the situation facing state schools in Queensland because they have no interest in talking to the representatives of the 44,000 teachers and principals who work in the state education system. Devoid of fresh policies and new ideas, the LNP has resorted to the basest strategy of class warfare and mudslinging. After being criticised by the QTU for the gross failings in this latest policy announcement, the LNP issued a media release claiming that “Labor and their union mates are only interested in playing politics”.

In fact, the QTU is more interested in achieving a fair outcome for state school teachers, principals and students. The QTU is not affiliated with any political party. That one side of politics has a consistently better record on public education and industrial relations is a matter for the LNP to address by engaging with unions in genuine dialogue and demonstrating through meaningful policies that they are committed to real improvement in education funding.

In contrast, the Labor “Education Trust” would see more than $900 million directed to a range of programs in schools with distribution based on need and $1.6 billion directed to students as direct payments, both over a 10-year period. The Labor model, while still not what the QTU wished for and not designated for capital works, would be dismantled under the LNP policy to pay for this and other election promises.

Coupled with the LNP’s discredited “Independent public schools” policy, this latest effort sends a strong negative message to state schools teachers, principals, students and their families. QTU members are struggling to do ever more with less, and P&Cs are going to extraordinary lengths to raise much needed extra funds for their local schools – this LNP announcement is a kick in the teeth for all of them.

1. Rorris, A. Rebuilding Public Schools: 2020 Investment Targets, research paper commissioned by the Australian Education Union, 2008.