Labor leader Anthony Albanese must deliver for public education

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Labor must resist any push to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification for abandoning its current progressive policy position on education.

“Reports today that Labor is considering changing its policy on funding public education are deeply concerning. Students, staff and parents at public schools, preschools and TAFE are relying on them to deliver a strong fiscal and progressive policy for public education in the lead up to the next Federal election,” Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

“As Labor works through its policy review process, it must ensure that public education remains at the forefront,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the AEU expected Labor to retain its policy commitments, including:

  • preschool, guaranteeing Universal Access to 15 hours of preschool each week for all three- and four-year-old children in the two years before they start school
  • TAFE, guaranteeing a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. No public funding should go to private for-profit providers.
  • schools, scrapping the legislated Commonwealth funding cap to public schools at 20% and increasing funding to ensure all schools reach the minimum 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS)

Ms Haythorpe said that it was essential that Labor maintained its current policy commitment to enhancing the Commonwealth contribution to public school funding so that all public schools received 100% of the SRS.

“The Morrison Government’s school funding legislation entrenches inequality, favours the private school sector and denies public schools the vital resources needed for our students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Under the Morrison Government’s current legislation, 99% of public schools will be funded at less than the SRS by 2023 while the vast majority of private schools will be at or above the SRS by 2023,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that public schools also needed an immediate injection of capital works funding to ensure that they are fit for purpose for the predicted boom in student enrolments in coming years.

“The Morrison Government’s school funding legislation means that virtually every public school in Australia will not have enough funding to meet the needs of its students for the next five years and beyond,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The resource gaps evident in the Morrison Government’s school funding architecture have a big impact at the school level in terms of teaching and learning programs,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The stark reality is that to address the inequality that exists due to public schools not being funded at a minimum of 100% of the SRS, all political parties will need to invest in public education,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Investing in schools, preschools and TAFE is not only critically important to ensure high quality learning outcomes for students but it will provide a significant economic boost to the nation.”

“Public education funding is not a cost to be managed, it must be viewed as an investment in Australia’s future,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said the benefits of investing in public education, including TAFE and preschools, are felt in all areas of the economy.

“A 2016 study[1] found that investing in schools would deliver an average $65 billion in economic benefits each year until 2095,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“According to a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, a $2.3 billion investment each year for Universal Access to early childhood education could generate $4.8 billion in flow-on benefits to the economy.”

“TAFE is the backbone Australia’s post school education system and generates many times its costs for each dollar invested in flow on benefits across employment, health, and social outcomes,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Further, TAFE is fundamentally important to Australia’s post-COVID-19 economy.”

“We will commit the full resources of our union to fighting for public education in the lead up to and beyond the next election.”