Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020; Second Reading
There are schools that need more money. They're called public schools, and there's not a cent for them in this appropriation bill. In public schools, one in five teachers is dipping into their own pocket to buy things like food or equipment for their students, but they don't get any support from this bill. In public schools there are 45 per cent of teachers helping them buy things like clothes and toiletries, but they don't get a cent from this bill. Under this government's funding formula 99 percent of public schools will be funded less than the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023, while 100 per cent of private schools are going to be above that benchmark, but this bill gives the private schools more money and gives nothing to the public schools.
If we want to have a country where everyone is entitled to a good-quality education, where our educators get paid properly and where, when you go to school, you have proper equipment in proper buildings, we need to fund our public schools. But this government can find $3.4 billion so that schools that are already doing alright get even more money, but public schools get nothing. This government is failing the 2½ million children in public schools.
We need to go back to basics here. We need to say that in a country like Australia every child has the right to a decent public education. Public schools are not a safety net; they are the gold standard. We should fund them as such. But what we know from report after report and inquiry after inquiry is that our public schools are slipping behind. Why? Because there is a cashed up lobby of very wealthy schools that is able to come here and persuade both sides of the aisle that they deserve special treatment. As a result, every time there's an additional pot of money to be handed out, it doesn't go where it's needed.
Public schools are the ones who educate our most disadvantaged students. They're the ones who need more support, so if there's a spare $3.4 billion going, let's give it to our public schools, because they're the ones who are doing the bulk of the teaching and the bulk of the teaching in the areas of need. This has been reported time and time again, but it seems that in this place need doesn't count for much; what counts is whether you've got the right school tie and you went to the right very wealthy private school that has a few swimming pools and tennis courts. If you do that you can come and ask the government for additional money, and they will give it to you.
There are some positive steps in this bill, because it starts to go some way towards improving the measurement of a school's socioeconomic score. In my electorate, where we've got more public housing than any other electorate in Victoria, there are some Catholic schools that I wouldn't say are wealthy by any stretch: St Joseph's, St Michael's, Holy Rosary. Some of those schools are looking after and educating some of the neediest and poorest students. But what the government is doing is wheeling out some of those schools and saying, 'This justifies the whole bill.' Well, no—part of the problem there is that we don't fund schools on the basis of need. The government hands over big cheques and then the money doesn't find its way to the schools that need it. If we had a proper needs based funding system, then those schools who are educating some of the most vulnerable, including those in the flats in public housing in Collingwood or Kensington in my electorate, would get the funding that they deserve. But if you took a needs based approach, what you would find is that the bulk of the money goes to the public schools, because that is where the bulk of the need is.