Adjournment: Public School Funding
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education. The action I seek is for the minister to invest more in public schools above the current state-federal funding agreement. When it comes to funding for our public schools Victoria is at the back of the pack when compared to other states—the lowest-funded public schools of every state in Australia. In fact our public schools are receiving over $1300 less per student than the national average. When it comes to the recommended full Gonski funding Victorian public schools are over $1 billion short of the full school resource standard.
The state government obviously can point to infrastructure and school infrastructure—no qualms about that—but without the proper funding of what goes on inside the building, it means less teachers, less support staff, less resources to support disadvantaged students, parents having to pay more for what is supposed to be a free public education and teachers having to dip into their own pockets for class supplies or working longer, unpaid hours. The state government talk about the deal that they signed and the money they are putting in and put it back on the feds, but Victoria will not reach its 75 per cent funding share until 2028—second last of all states, and some are already there.
Yes, the federal government needs to come to the party too and increase its share as well. But as we recover from COVID, as we heal and as students catch up, what better investment than the funding for our public schools? It is for many reasons: to support students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who need that extra support, and those extra teachers or extra support staff in the classroom really help; for extra teaching, mental health or specialist services for families to reduce the cost of what should be a genuinely free public education—costs are increasing seemingly year upon year for all those extra costs to send your child to a public school; for our teachers, who are currently in wage negotiations with the government and who have voted to take industrial action, and after seeing them rise to the challenge over the past two years they should be rewarded with better pay and conditions and more time to deal with their workload; and finally, for jobs. It has been pointed out by economists throughout this pandemic that the best value for money when it comes to job creation is social spending, where the vast majority, if not all, of the funding goes directly into job creation.
In this instance it would be for more teachers and more support staff to support great public schools. I urge the state government to fund our public schools more than the current funding agreement, which still leaves Victorian public schools the worst funded in the country for years to come.