Education International
Education International

Australian teachers win public debate on adequate education funding

published 27 February 2012 updated 29 February 2012

“There is an urgent need for the reform of school funding arrangements and an investment of at least an extra 3.8 billion Australian dollars a year in the public schools of Australia”. This is the main conclusion of a Panel to Review the Funding for Schooling established by the Australian government in 2010.

The review panel, headed by well-known Australian businessman David Gonski, released its landmark report last week. During 18 months of investigation, the panel reviewed over 7000 submissions from stakeholders and members of the public, visited 39 schools, and consulted 71 key education groups across Australia. The report also concluded that there is an unacceptable link between low levels of achievement and educational disadvantage, particularly among students from low socio-economic and indigenous backgrounds.

At the annual conference of the Australian Education Union (AEU), held in Melbourne on 24-26 February, AEU Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos commented:  "This is a once-in-a-generation chance to get school funding right and put in place fairer arrangements for our future. We need to replace the current system that is broken and is making it harder to ensure that every child can get a great education. We know that investing more in public schools is the only way to ensure quality and equity in education."

EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, attending AEU’s 28th national conference, said that AEU had won the public debate on education funding. However, he said, that even with the allocation of an additional A$5 billion, Australia would still have a lower-than-average educational spend among OECD countries.

Nationwide campaign

The release of the Gonski Review Report on 20 February coincided with the end of the AEU’s nationwide campaign for better funding for public schools which it launched earlier this year. The campaign included an advertising blitz and a bus tour. The campaign bus visited schools for meetings and forums with parents and teachers in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. Teachers and parents also visited Parliament House in Canberra on 16 February. EI President Susan Hopgood and EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen took part in the last day of the tour which ended in Torquay (Victoria) on 22 February.

In a national poll of over 4,000 people that was conducted for AEU:

  • 70 per cent of people said the Federal Government was not investing enough in public schools
  • A majority of people said investing more in public schools to lower class sizes and deliver more individual attention should be the top government priority in education
  • 59 per cent said the Federal Government should consider additional public school funding as an urgent issue that needs immediate attention
  • 70 per cent said that most or all new federal education funds should go to public schools