The Australian Education Union has called for a $2.9 billion investment into public education in order to support literacy and numeracy strategies. The AEU has called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to make this the first step in his so called "Education Revolution".
It is highly unlikely that the new Labor government will commit this level of much needed funding given that it recently announced it will maintain funding arrangements for private schools. Currently federal funding to private schools is based on the SES (socio-economic status) model, where schools receive funding based on incomes of the entire census area rather than the incomes of parents whose children attend the private school. Rudd has decided that this model will remain in place until 2012.
AEU acting federal president Angelo Gavrielatos labelled this funding model "distorted, corrupt and discredited" in a January 9 media release, and has called on the government to abandon it. Gavrielatos claims that 60% of private schools receive more federal funding than they are entitled to even when the distorted SES model was applied correctly.
Gavrielatos did not go so far as to call for a complete end to private school funding. Private schools receive approximately 65% of federal funding, a figure that rose under the Howard government and is likely to continue to increase if the SES model is maintained.
This funding to private schools amounts to around $6 billion per year. If injected into the public system, this money would start to address the needs of public education, including the reduction of class sizes, employment of more teachers, capital works programs, adequate funding for early childhood programs and TAFE, to name a few.
The training and retention of teachers has again been highlighted with a decline in first preferences for undergraduate teaching courses. With increasing numbers of staff leaving the system each year, and a significant number of beginning teachers unsure of whether they will remain teaching, both state and federal governments must act immediately to improve the pay and conditions of teachers if we are to see any "Education Revolution". $2.9 billion would only start to address this drastic problem.
[Bronwyn Jennings is a primary school teacher and a member of Teachers Alliance, a Victorian rank and file teachers group. Teachers Alliance can be contacted at <email@example.com>.]