In what has been an extraordinary year due to COVID-19, public schools have been ignored by the budget in what can only be perceived as an insult to teachers, parents and students, who are struggling under the most trying conditions.
“The budget fails to fund the $19 billion shortfall, the minimum funding required to meet the educational needs of Australia’s students," says AEU Federal president Correna Haythorpe says.
'Investing in public education provides funding to the students who need help the most. There should have been an immediate injection of funding for extra support with reading and writing for students who may have fallen behind during the period of remote learning. Public schools would have been able to employ more teachers for smaller class sizes and more one-on-one support for every student.”
In addition, an investment in public education would return many times the initial cost over the long term, while almost certainly encouraging GDP growth in excess of the ongoing debt servicing cost on an annual basis.
The budget also fails to provide any capital funding for public schools, which would have generated construction and manufacturing jobs whilst also providing much-needed new classrooms, bathrooms, libraries, heating and cooling, and sport facilities.
“Thousands of public schools across the country are in critical need of infrastructure improvement and yet since 2017 public schools have been denied federal funds. In contrast this budget sees the continuation of the $1.9 billion set aside for private schools over the next ten years,” Correna Haythorpe says.
A similar approach taken during the global financial crisis reversed the decline in construction and supported approximately 120,000 jobs over the life of the program. At the same time, it provided libraries, classrooms, canteens, specialist language laboratories, science labs and sporting facilities to schools across the country.
“If Scott Morrison considers public school infrastructure to be wasteful, what does he make of his own government handing billions of dollars to high-fee private schools for second swimming pools, mock medieval libraries and retractable orchestra pits?”
Instead, the Morrison government has yet again washed its hands of public education, preferring to overfund private schools to a tune of over $1 billion by 2023.
“This budget has failed public schools," says Ms Haythorpe. "A strong education system is the foundation from which we all build a better future, and that is in the national interest. Yet, this budget failed to address inequality in school funding and failed to invest in our students in public schools to help them reach their potential.”
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