Analysing the 2021-22 State Budget
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 5, 30 July 2021, page no.14
Media reports have identified education as one of the “winners” in this year’s State Budget. There is certainly enough in the Budget to justify this characterisation but, of course, there are always caveats.
Overall education funding
A brochure accompanying the 2021–22 Budget Papers states that the Budget continues the Palaszczuk government’s commitment to improving education outcomes for teachers and students through a total education investment of $16.8 billion. This figure includes education and training, as well as some education-related matters in other portfolios (e.g. school transport). It represents 25 per cent of the total Budget (compared with 24 per cent in 2020-21 and 24.9 per cent in 2019-20), a goal set for the government by the QTU in its Budget Submission.
The Department of Education’s budget increased from $10,270.3m (actual expenditure) in 2020-21 to $11,009.7m in 2021-22. Unadjusted for enrolment increases or inflation, that is an increase of 7.2 per cent.
Allocated TAFE expenditure for 2021-22 is $704.476m. This is an increase of 5.1 per cent from allocated expenses in 2020-21 and of 6.7 per cent from estimated actual 2020-21 expenditure.
Infrastructure spending was a major focus in this Budget.
Capital outlays for the Department of Education in 2020-21 were $1,294.6m (actual). However, this was an underspend of some $472.7m on what had been provided for in the Budget. While the 2021-22 allocation of $1,587.5m is an increase on 2020-21 actual outlays, it does not make up for the underspend in 2020-21.
The 2021–22 Budget includes funding for 10 new state schools (to open in 2023 and 2024) in high-growth areas of the state and $540.9m for new classrooms, administrative offices and amenities at existing schools. $61.2m has been allocated in 2021–22 as part of the School Halls program, and $39.3 million has been allocated in 2021–22 for the Advancing Clean Energy Schools program to upgrade and install solar energy and energy efficiency measures in Queensland state schools. $53.9 million has been allocated in 2021–22 for air-conditioning installation and replacement in state schools under the Cooler Cleaner Schools program.
According to the Capital Statement, allocated capital expenditure in the Employment, Small Business and Training portfolio for 2021-22 is $112.3m, $77.7m in capital purchases and equipment and $34.6m in capital grants.
The capital works program in the training portfolio includes:
- $47.8 million (of $100m total) for the commencement and delivery of Equipping TAFE for our Future projects
- $7.5 million for the delivery of the Revitalising TAFE Campuses Across Australia initiative this also receives Commonwealth funding)
- $23.9m for TAFE-specific property, plant and equipment not related to the Equipping TAFE for our Future or Revitalising TAFE Campuses Across Australia projects.
A list of specific capital projects for schools and TAFE is included in the Capital Statement (Budget Paper, No. 3), which is accessible online.
The Budget Papers reiterate the government’s election commitment to employ 6,190 new teachers and 1,139 new teacher-aides over the course of its four-year term of office. The problem is that the additional teachers are all linked to expected enrolment growth and not to the provision of enhanced or additional services. While the Department of Education states that the additional teacher roll-out is “on-track”, the actual number of additional teachers is subject to enrolment trends. As the QTU has noted, there are compelling reasons to provide additional teachers for purposes other than meeting enrolment growth.
There will also be $14m ($100m over three years) in funding to employ an unspecified number of school “well-being professionals”, who will start to be provided to schools from 1 July this year.
In TAFE Queensland, employee numbers are expected to remain at 3,979 (FTE).