Andrews Government's big blow to public schools and TAFEs in 2023 state budget

The Australian Education Union Victorian Branch has condemned the Victorian Government’s decision to cut public school funding, its failure to invest in the workforce to address teacher shortages and the neglect of TAFE in yet another state budget.

“It’s disappointing that the Victorian Government has chosen to cut funding from public schools and TAFE in this year’s budget,” said Meredith Peace, Australian Education Union Victorian Branch President.

“Public schools in Victoria should be moving closer to the target of being fully-funded to 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

“But instead, they are being deprived of the necessary funding and resources that ensure every student has access to the high-quality education they need to thrive."

Ms Peace also said that it was regrettable that the Andrews government did not use this opportunity to address teacher shortages at a time when Victoria’s public schools are confronting serious and ongoing shortages that they haven’t experienced for decades.

“While building nine new schools in metropolitan Melbourne is a welcome move and puts them on track to meet their commitment to build 100 new schools by 2026, AEU members remain highly concerned about how these schools would be staffed when we have many public schools in Victoria right now that do not have fully qualified teachers in front of classrooms.

“Public school teachers, principals and support staff have repeatedly been calling on the government to urgently implement a range of medium- to long-term strategies to attract and retain more teachers in the workforce, such as retention payments and financial incentives for pre-service teachers.

“Teacher shortages are leaving many students in public schools high and dry without the support they need and contributing to the escalating workloads experienced by existing public school staff, causing them to burn out and walk away from their profession.

“This budget was a chance for the state government to make some big changes and fix the issues plaguing Victoria’s public schools and the teaching workforce. It is unfortunate that they’ve chosen actively not to take that chance.

“We urge them to deliver the bold reforms that are needed between now and the 2024 school year to get public schools back on track to receive full funding and attract and retain enough qualified teachers so that every student has a fully qualified teacher in front of their classroom.”

The AEU also condemned the Andrews government for cutting funding allocations for TAFE.

“Fee-free TAFE sounds good in a headline. But the reality is, TAFE in Victoria is not funded for the actual cost of course delivery.

“Just this week, we learned that Swinburne are planning to axe their TAFE horticulture courses due to a lack of adequate funding. This is just the latest on a long list of cancelled courses and qualifications in Victoria over the past decade.

“The State Government knows this is a problem. Their own review made it clear that Victoria’s TAFEs are not funded to cover the full cost of training. The Premier has repeatedly stated his government will ‘Save TAFE’, but if they slash TAFE funding and refuse to address the chronic underfunding of TAFE, they have no right to that claim.

“Full funding of TAFE is required to employ the qualified staff to ensure the delivery of fee-free TAFE courses, expand accessibility and affordability of high-quality vocational education and ensure Victoria has the highly skilled workforce needed.

Ms Peace said that the AEU was very pleased by the announcement made by the Premier to allocate a further $3bn to facilitate the expansion of the Free Kinder program for three and four-year olds in Victoria, including additional funding to support inclusion of children with additional needs in kindergarten.

“The ongoing rollout of Free Kinder for three and four-year-olds in Victoria has already brought about many positive changes for children, their families and the early childhood education workforce.

“AEU members are happy to see that the Andrews Labor government will continue to invest in the program and strengthen their commitment to ensure that every child has access to high quality and affordable early learning, no matter their background or location.”

MEDIA CONTACT: DISHI GAHLOWT, 0434 159 833, [email protected]

23 May 2023