Budget priorities for a new state government

The new government’s announcement that the State Budget will be postponed to September provides Queensland teachers with an opportunity to lobby for some key education funding priorities.

As reported in the April Journal, the QTU has released its 2012 State Budget Submission, New Government – Ongoing Challenge, Securing Queensland’s Future: A Resourcing Agenda for State Schools. It draws on the QTU’s 10-year plan for improving state education by identifying broad priority areas for funding, including:

  • funding first-rate school facilities
  • improving educational outcomes
  • ensuring equity
  • attracting and retaining high quality teachers across the state
  • education leadership
  • school grants and resources
  • resourcing reforms.

Our message to the new government will focus on the following areas.

First-rate facilities:  The LNP’s proposal for a schools planning commission has potential merit, and the party did announce $115m in additional capital works through the Building our Future Schools Fund. Unfortunately, 75 per cent of this is directed to the non-government sector. The case for significant capital investment in state schools is very strong, with research showing that the quality of capital infrastructure is significantly below that of private sector schools. The LNP has promised a Resource Community Building Fund (Royalties for the Regions), and while it is not to be used to build schools, there are educational, sporting and community facilities which could be sited on state school grounds in regional areas. There are also a number of long-standing maintenance and workplace health and safety concerns to be addressed.

Behaviour management: Student responsibility issues remain one of the priority education concerns for teachers. Schools are confronting a range of significant issues in their attempts to guarantee students a safe, secure learning environment. Failure to deal with student responsibility issues effectively has deleterious effects for schools, students and society in general. The LNP announced that it would spend $2m over two years to provide 15 more school and community based police across Queensland and establish a “trial boot camp for juveniles convicted of offences”. The QTU believes that establishing more positive learning centres (PLCs) would be a more effective means of addressing the concerns recognised by the LNP in their policy proposals.

Educational investment: The government should not use its commission of audit as an excuse to cut educational services. The need to enhance educational investment must be recognised. The ALP’s proposal to establish an additional stream of funding for education, in addition to mainstream funding, through tapping into LNG royalties over an extended period was not without its flaws, but it did demonstrate some creative thinking which would have allowed Budget funding allocations for schools to be supplemented with ongoing additional revenue. It is not clear whether the LNP Royalties for the Regions fund is similarly sourced from royalties, as the name suggests.

Cairns Special School: This was, of course, an ALP rather than LNP election commitment, but it has been a long-standing need in the Cairns area and the subject of dedicated campaigning by local QTU members. The LNP would win many friends in far north Queensland if it made a commitment to build this school.

Other LNP election commitments: Some of these are problematic, such as the $21m over four years for “independent public schools’’, but the government should be reminded of its commitment to provide $26m for literacy and numeracy programs in schools, $3.5m to supply special schools and special education programs with iPads, and $54m over four years for full-time teacher-aides in prep classrooms.

John McCollow
Research Officer

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 4, 1 June 2012, p14