From the President :
A budget day unlike any other
by Kevin Bates, 30 November 2020
In a year like no other, we will tomorrow hear from the re-elected Palaszczuk government about its budget for what remains of the 2020-2021 financial year. The QTU will be looking carefully at the budget announcement, as we always do, to ensure that ongoing education and infrastructure programs are funded, election commitments are delivered, and that there is no more unreasonable cost-shifting onto schools.
The state government has a commendable track record on delivering on most budget commitments. Significant planned infrastructure spending on new schools and expanded school facilities has occurred, and new commitments such as the air-conditioning of all schools and solar panels to power them are well under way. It should be noted that the electrical upgrades required to run the air-conditioners are fully funded in the installation plan for each school – the issue at the moment is the delay in the owners of the electricity infrastructure doing the network upgrade work. The QTU will be looking to see the next tranche of the budget allocations to ensure that all these plans are fully realised.
A range of major election announcements will also need to be funded in the state budget announced tomorrow. A $1 billion commitment to new, expanded and improved school facilities is perhaps the most significant. Employing new teachers to cater for high levels of growth in student enrolments is expected to feature, and an election proposal for student wellbeing support through a trial of general practitioners in schools is also a high priority.
The QTU’s main campaign over the coming years is the reduction of teacher and principal workload. In this regard, the QTU would support budget savings driven by reduction in teacher workload – ceasing activities that cost money and increase pressure on teachers. Two good examples of immediate cost savings that should be considered are the tens of millions of dollars spent on National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests and the more than $13 million spent a year to fund the near defunct Independent Public Schools program. Consultation with QTU members could produce many creative ways to save money and reduce teacher and principal workload while strengthening the public education system. Whatever happens, there is no capacity for more to be sacrificed by teachers and principals.
As always, the overall spend on education will go up. It will be a record budget in education. The budget should increase every year, because the number of students to be educated, when combined with the impact of increased costs of education, requires greater investment by government in public education. How that money is spent on delivering the promises made is critical.