26 March 2024

Skywriting over Parliament House? It's all in the family

| Chris Johnson
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How close to Parliament House will the AEU’s skywriter be allowed to fly? Photo: James Coleman.

Look up above Parliament House later this morning (26 March) and you’ll see some nifty signwriting talking directly to the Prime Minister.

Well, it’s only talking directly to him if he bothers to go outside and take a look.

And it’s not that directly over Parliament House either, if we’re being precise, as there’s quite a no-fly zone over that part of the capital.

However, the Australian Education Union is taking to the skies close enough (with permission) to send a special message just for Anthony Albanese.

At 11:30 am, all state and territory AEU presidents will join the federal president, Corenna Haythorpe, on the lawns in front of Parliament House to turn their gazes skywards while a message unfurls asking (demanding) the PM fully fund public schools.

The skywriting will take about 15 minutes and once that spectacle is over, Ms Haythorpe will conduct a media conference to further press the point.

And the point is a good one: the divide between public and private school funding is far too great.

With the future funding of every public school in Australia being decided by federal, state and territory governments over the course of this year, the AEU is insisting full funding be the priority.

According to its statistics, 98 per cent of public schools are resourced below the Schooling Resource Standard. But there is no agreement between governments to close this resourcing gap and bring every school to 100 per cent of the SRS.

The AEU says Australia is by far the most inequitable country in terms of access to educational staff and resources compared to similarly wealthy countries.

In its recently published research paper, the AEU argues that the inequity in capital funding is maintained by the Commonwealth’s abandonment of public schools.

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“Over the decade from 2012 to 2021 capital investment in public schools averaged $1110 per student per year, whilst in private schools the average was $2401 per student per year – more than double,” the report states.

“For public schools to match the total per student capital investment made in private schools over the decade, a total investment of $60.5 billion would have been required between 2012 and 2021.

“This is $31.8 billion more than was invested by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments combined over the decade.

“For 2021 alone, the gap in investment on a per student basis between public schools and private schools was $2.7 billion.

“From 2012 to 2021 the Commonwealth provided $1.9 billion in capital funds for private schools, and the state and territory governments have provided another $1.2 billion.

“An average of $310 million a year has been provided to private schools from government funds over the decade.”

It says that per student, capital funding from governments to private schools has increased by nearly half (48 per cent) in the five years from 2016 to 2021 alone.

The report states that Commonwealth capital funding to public schools essentially ceased over the same five-year period.

In the ACT, NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, there was no ongoing Commonwealth capital funding for public schools in 2021.

The Northern Territory received substantial funding of $381 per student in 2021, while Western Australia received just $23 per student.

The report calls for a $1.25 billion injection into public schools.

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It also says this will make up for the fact there has been no ongoing capital funding from the Commonwealth “since the former Coalition government axed it in 2017”.

And there’s the clue as to why the AEU is going all out making a bold and very public statement in the sky (and also why it got permission to do it so close to parliament).

It’s a grand opportunity to blame it all on the former government and give the Coalition a kick, knowing that Labor is going to deliver.

What the AEU is calling for amounts to a significant budget decision, and with the federal budget fast approaching, it’s a sure bet the union has been given the nod that it’s going to get a fair chunk of what it’s asking for over public schools funding.

Let’s not forget it’s a union, and like all unions (affiliation and non-affiliation aside), one way or another they’re pretty much aligned with the wider Labor family.

So, what better opportunity to go out feigning pressure on a Labor PM?

That way, when the budget ups the capital funding for public schools, the PM looks like he’s listened (or read the writing on the sky), and the union claims a huge victory.

A win-win situation. That’s how families take care of each other.

But having said all that, it’s still a good point to be making.

Public schools certainly need more love from the Federal Government.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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