From the President: Fair Funding Now! – not one cent less!
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 3, 13 April 2018, p7
The Australian Education Union, the QTU and our allies have launched the next phase of the campaign to deliver the funding needed for every child across the nation to realise their potential through a high-quality education.
One crucial element of the original Gonski Report was an important addition to the social compact between the federal government and all Australians: the school resourcing standard (SRS). The SRS was developed through the combination of the research of, and submissions to, the original Gonski panel of experts. In short, the SRS represents the minimum amount of money per child that needs to be invested in a school to achieve literacy and numeracy standards as set by the Australian Curriculum. The SRS envisages that the disadvantage experienced by children can be overcome through additional funding, above the minimum, targeted at each of the five key areas of disadvantage.
Fair Funding Now! aims to achieve at least 100 per cent of the SRS for all state schools, with the federal government picking up the funding shortfall. But why is it necessary for a campaign to achieve a minimum level of funding that was agreed and legislated?
In a deal with a variety of cross-bench Senators in late 2017, the Turnbull government amended the legislated funding model such that state schools are condemned to receive no more than 95 per cent of the SRS from combined state and federal government funding. The 2017 Budget announcement and subsequent legislation changes robbed schools of $17 billion over 10 years, with $1.9 billion ripped out of state schools in 2018-2020 alone.
Delegations of teachers, principals and parents questioned their local members, all part of the federal Coalition government, during meetings held in Parliament House, Canberra in the last week of term one (see report on page 11). The Queensland delegations were treated respectfully, but those politicians were unable to move beyond the carefully scripted answers to address the genuine concerns of their constituents. Why should state schools get less than the minimum level of funding agreed under the legislated Gonski funding model? Why should state school students be denied opportunities in education when they were promised so much more? Why should state schools not have access to capital works funding from the federal government, to ensure world class facilities to match the world class teaching that goes on in the current classrooms?
In a bizarre twist, one delegation heard from their politician that the evidence of the Turnbull government’s “good work” on school funding was the overall increases to be delivered over the period ending in 2027; increases that in 2027 would provide about $3,300 to a state school in his electorate (up from $2,200) and $43,000 for a private school in his electorate (up from $32,000). The example state school would be left well below the established minimum funding level while the example private school would receive funding in excess of the minimum from government sources alone, and then charge school fees of parents as well.
In the same week in which the Turnbull government was attempting to negotiate with the Senate to pass tax cuts for big businesses worth $65 billion, members of the federal government attempted to argue with teachers, principals and parents that the legislated school funding levels could never be achieved because the government did not have the money to pay for them.
Our message in response was clear. Teachers, principals and parents will not accept that our schools will receive one cent less than what they were promised. We will not accept that the children we teach should aspire to less than any other. We will not accept that the hopes and dreams of parents for their children will be denied because the federal government wants to prioritise big business over the children who are our future.
We demand Fair Funding Now!