The Australian Education Union (AEU) has reiterated its call for increased and adequate funding for public education. The call comes as the COVID-19 pandemic highlights longstanding inequalities in education.
On November 17, the AEU issued a statement calling for an increase in public funding for education. Such funding is vital as investing in public education benefits students and communities now and in the future
“Public education gives every child the opportunity to reach their full potential. It improves health and employment outcomes, promotes informed participation in society and promotes equality, ”the union said.
Investment in education leads to higher government tax revenues
It insisted that investing in education also increases income. People with post-secondary qualifications earn on average 20 to 40 percent more than people without. This means that the tax on higher incomes will increase government revenues.
While spending on schools provides a direct and immediate economic incentive, the long-term benefits for students and communities are arguably even more valuable, the AEU said. Public schools provide abundant education for students, with teachers striving to meet the needs of every child. However, the schools are not properly funded.
Public schools below the minimum funding level
However, the educators union stressed that most public schools will stay below the minimum funding level, the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), through 2023, while all private schools will meet or exceed the target.
The funding bottleneck for public schools is A $ 16.3 billion in the current legislature alone. According to AEU analysis, this value will increase to A $ 22.7 billion by 2023.
In addition, a 2018 study by the Public Education Foundation calculated the national cost of educational inequality over a six-year period at A $ 20.3 billion, equivalent to 1.2 percent of gross domestic product.
The Public Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that awards scholarships to young people in public education and their teachers and school principals.
The study's solutions included targeted teaching and additional teachers, alternative learning programs and a firm commitment to needs-based funding for schools.
The AEU has told a Senate investigation into the government's response to COVID-19 that an immediate funding to bring all schools 100 percent to SRS is now urgently needed.
'Adequate funding will not only help fill the equity and performance gaps between students from high and low socioeconomic households, but additional work is now needed to support students who are lagging behind in distance learning are advised, "stressed AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe.
Capital investment urgent
Another important area that needs adequate federal funding is school infrastructure, emphasized the AEU.
The number of students in public schools increased by 263,534 students in the decade through 2018, an increase of 10.3 percent. New schools are needed to accommodate these students and existing schools need upgrading to increase capacity, the union said.
"A guaranteed long-term, federally funded, capital work package is critical," said Haythorpe. "Existing schools need new classrooms, libraries, heating and cooling and sports facilities to accommodate students now appropriately and to cope with the upcoming surge in enrollment."
A government-funded school construction program designed when government loans are cheaper than ever would also provide a valuable incentive and employment boost to the Australian construction and manufacturing industries, she said.
A "great inequality" between schools
The AEU Senate investigation found that due to the "enormous inequality" in the distribution of federal funds to schools, many students do not have the additional resources they need to overcome their disadvantage.
"If Australia is to recover from the current economic shock and return to growth, the upcoming 2020 budget must provide very important impetus," the statement said. "This incentive should be targeted where it can have the most immediate and long-term effects."
Look to the future
Haythorpe also insisted that the COVID-19 crisis exposed long-standing inequalities in education and that "governments must prioritize public education with a significant investment to address this inequality".
Many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and their families are deeply affected by the crisis, she said.
In communities across Australia, education is the “stabilizing factor” for children “as it not only leads to better life outcomes for individual students, but also tremendous long-term benefits for society, the economy and the country as a whole,” added Haythorpe.
It is imperative that governments invest in public education to eradicate inequalities and ensure that every child gets the education they need, she concluded.
Action plan for funding schools
The AEU calls on the federal government:
- Providing needs-based funding for Australian schools.
- Invest funds immediately to bring all schools to 100 percent of the SRS, with corresponding burdens for students with complex needs.
- Create a guaranteed long-term, federally funded capital work package.