Federal budget forgets education and TAFE…again!
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.10
While the federal budget brought welcome spending on support for domestic and family violence and on preschools, it failed to deliver for state schools and TAFE.
Since 2013, TAFE has suffered more than $3 billion in funding cuts. Despite TAFE being best positioned to deliver high quality vocational education and skills to help our nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, these cuts were not addressed in the budget.
Instead, the government has chosen to direct training funding to private colleges and the job network. If the government was serious about funding vocational education to help people get a stable and secure job, it would rebuild with TAFE.
Similarly, state schools continue to be under-resourced by the federal government. All schools will share in record spending of $24.4 billion, but the largest share will go to private schools. Private schools will receive $14.7 billion in 2021-22, up $1.7 billion (or 13 per cent) on 2020-21. State schools, which educate two-thirds of children, will receive $9.7 billion in federal funding – up $675 million (or just 7.5 per cent). As a result, state school staff are denied the resources they need to provide the education and support their students deserve.
The difference in funding between the state and private sectors demonstrates the fallacy of the government’s argument that national testing like NAPLAN assists in directing funding to schools with the most need. If it was genuine about this being the purpose of NAPLAN, then the budget would reflect it.
The federal government must understand the critical importance of resourcing every state school properly to ensure that every child has a high-quality education, regardless of their background.
A federal budget that delivers for public education would include:
- a guarantee of a minimum 70 per cent of all government funding directed to the public TAFE system
- a commitment to funding state schools to a minimum of 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard
- the establishment of a capital fund for state schools to help meet rising enrolment growth and infrastructure needs.
But there is some good news
The budget included a commitment to negotiate a new funding agreement to “support continued universal access to at least 15 hours of preschool each week (600 hours per year) for children in the year before they start school”. $1.6 billion will be invested in preschool services over the next four years, although there will be conditions attached. While this is a significant breakthrough, the AEU will continue to call on the federal government to fund 15 hours of preschool per week for Australian children in the two years before school.
The budget also provides $357 million over three years to support women and children experiencing or at risk of violence. It will help states provide vital services to victims of domestic and family violence even when demand is at its highest.