Schools

Turnbull’s Budget fails our children

May 09, 2018

The federal Budget has failed to deliver fair funding for public schools, with the Turnbull Government yet again prioritising big business over our children and their future.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said Malcolm Turnbull has blatantly ignored the needs and wants of the public by delivering a Budget that benefits big business, instead of delivering fairer funding for public schools.

NSW Teachers Federation President Maurie Mulheron highlighted the unfairness of the Turnbull Government’s priorities.

“This is a Budget designed to make wealthy people wealthier at the expense of the future of children and young people,” Mr Mulheron said. “There’s no restoration of the cuts to schools funding and the VET sector takes another $270 million hit.”

While the latest Guardian Essential Poll revealed 88 per cent of Australians want the Federal Government to either increase education spending or keep spending the same, Turnbull’s Budget delivered $65 billion in corporate tax cuts, while maintaining the $17 billion cut to schools funding outlined in his replacement to the original Gonski funding plan.

The Budget also contained a number of specific omissions, in which the Turnbull Government had chosen to ignore areas of immediate need. In particular, cuts to disability funding in five states and territories, which were first delivered under the Turnbull schools funding plan, have not been addressed.

In Tasmania and the Northern Territory, funding for public school students with disability has been cut 45 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively. Ms Haythorpe said this reflects the Government’s “complete disregard for the needs of students with disability who require additional support and resources”.

The Budget also failed to address the ever-worsening crisis in the TAFE sector, as the Turnbull Government failed to reverse the $177 million cuts made to TAFE in the 2017 Budget.

This continues the failure of successive Australian governments that have left TAFE subject to systemic under-funding, and at the mercy of the market-based models of vocational education delivery that have resulted in costs rising and enrolments plummeting.

“The Australian Education Union wants the Turnbull Government to commit to a minimum of 70 per cent of all vocational education funding guaranteed for TAFE and for the government to reverse its cuts to the sector,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The ongoing failure of the Turnbull Government to invest in TAFE will continue to undermine trust and confidence in the sector, and accelerate the decline in enrolments.”

“Even though there is huge need for investment in school infrastructure with NSW anticipating a 23% increase in enrolments into public schools over the next decade, there is not one dollar of capital funding for the public system. However, the non-government sector will be receiving an additional $1.9 billion of federal capital funding on top of what it already receives from both state and federal governments,” Mr Mulheron said.

Australia continues to under-invest in early childhood education by international standards. The OECD’s Education at a Glance reveals Australia’s investment accounts for just 0.5 per cent of GDP compared with the OECD average of 0.8 per cent.

Successive reports and studies show the critical importance of early childhood education, yet the government has committed only short-term funding to this sector, rather than the permanent, recurrent funding needed.

“The Australian Education Union urges the Government to commit to permanent funding of 15 hours universal access for all four year olds in order to deliver positive outcomes for children in the early stages of their learning,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Mr Mulheron also pointed out that the budget allocates permanent funding for the controversial school chaplains program.

“Federation has always opposed funding for school chaplains, and it is a great concern to see this budget commit to permanent, recurrent funding to employ individuals in a poorly defined ‘pastoral’ role,” Mr Mulheron said.

“We remain committed to seeing an increase in the number of qualified school counsellors available for students, and effective anti-bullying and support programs in schools.”

Read the full AEU media release here.