Steady as we go
11 June 2019 : QTU President Kevin Bates comments
Queensland’s rapidly growing public education system, early childhood education, schools and TAFE, will benefit from the additional investment delivered in today’s State Budget.
This 2019-2020 Budget, like every other, is of course a “record budget” for education – that is inevitable while populations grow. Within the almost $15 billion spend, the fundamentals of infrastructure and front-line staff are adequately catered for, with a few “extras”.
One stand-out announcement is the commitment by government to the ongoing funding of Early Childhood Development Programs (ECDP) across Queensland. QTU members have campaigned for the government to commit to make ECDPs a permanent feature of our education system after a threat to their future under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). $63.6 million is allocated over the next four years to secure the current policy and provision of ECDPs.
In another win for QTU members, the Palaszczuk government commits to implement the findings of the Queensland Review of NAPLAN – one of the conditions of our decision to lift the ban on NAPLAN Online.
A third announcement of note is the initial commitment of $100 million extra to air-conditioning, including the expansion of the Cooler Schools Zone.
Five new schools planned for 2020 headline the $1.4 billion infrastructure program and will enhance the provision of state education in growing communities in the south-east corner of the state, especially the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and inner-city Brisbane. A new special school at Palmview and urgently needed redevelopment and expansion of Caboolture and Currimundi Special Schools collectively attract $69 million in the Budget.
1,000 extra teachers will be employed for 2020 as part of the 3,700 required over the forward estimates to cover the growth in student enrolments in our state schools. Additional teachers and teacher-aides will be employed to cater for additional students in special education and to deliver on the 2017 election commitment of the Palaszczuk government for a teacher-aide in every prep classroom.
A commitment of $136 million over the next five years will support the Teaching Queensland Futures initiative, designed to ensure that we have the teachers we need where we need them. The Queensland Government also needs to invest in the retention of teachers and principals in Queensland schools. This will only be achieved through significant additional investment in the salaries and working conditions of teachers and principals, especially measures to address workloads that are negatively impacting on the health, wellbeing and productivity of workers in schools. There is no specific allocation in the Budget associated with enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The Budget papers lead with a boast about $1.4 billion in additional funding committed for Queensland schools between 2019 and 2023 under a new federal school funding deal signed with the Morrison government just prior to the federal election. What the Budget papers ignore is the fact that this extra funding does not make up for the $4 billion shortfall in total funding for Queensland schools. The outcome condemns our state school system to the second lowest funding level of any state or territory, reaching only 69.3 per cent of the legislated 75 per cent state contribution. Several jurisdictions are currently reducing their contribution down to 75 per cent from levels as high as 90 per cent in the ACT. This impact on Queensland is compounded by the legislated cap of a 25 per cent contribution from the federal government to state schools also being under-delivered across the nation, with the Morrison government only offering a maximum 20 per cent contribution.
On the face of it, the 2019-2020 State Budget delivers a small decrease of around $3 million in the overall budget for training and skills while providing for several major investments in TAFE:
- $105 million is allocated to infrastructure upgrades and improvements to ensure modern training facilities
- $80 million of a six-year $420 million commitment to Skilling Queenslanders for Work
- Free TAFE for year 12 school-leavers to cover the full cost of 160 high priority skills qualifications.
To date, 6,000 school-leavers have accessed free TAFE after leaving school. A real and important contribution to the pathways to work and education for year 12 graduates in Queensland.
With the State Budget delivered at 2.00pm on 11 June, we need to take some time to conduct a proper analysis of the budget as whole. What is clear is that the state government is providing some new commitments while delivering on a positive legacy of promises of ongoing investment in public education. Check back to the QTU website, Facebook and Twitter for more information on the 2019-2020 State Budget as it is posted.
11 June 2019
Kevin Bates on twitter