Education: funding

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — The matter of public importance is another attempt by the Labor opposition to shift the blame for the mess it left behind after 11 years in government. The opposition makes false claims that money was withdrawn from the education budget, which is simply not true. It denies the fundamental principle that Labor left us with a broken system, one in which the best teacher was paid the same as the worst teacher. It left us with a huge mess. Unlike the Labor Party’s education union bosses, who instructed their members not to write comments on report cards, today I decided to provide members with a report card on each and every one of the issues raised by the opposition in the MPI.


No. 1 on my report card is the mess left behind by Labor, particularly in our TAFEs. When the coalition came into power the funding for TAFEs was completely unsustainable. It had blown out from Labor’s $800 million to $1.3 billion, which is a $500 million blow-out. Members know we restructured TAFEs to ensure they were sustainable and that in the courses students were applying for there would be jobs available at the end of their studies. We ensured that funding for courses like fitness instructing and aromatherapy, which were not contributing to the economy, did not receive the same level of funding as the ones that were needed. We took the very hard decisions and invested $1 billion in TAFEs. The verdict on this part of the matter of public importance proposed by Labor today is that it does not understand the basic economics. More revision is required; I suggest Labor members read more textbooks and less science fiction — or in the case of the member for Albert Park, watch less Twilight Zone. The mark is a fail.


The second part of the matter of public importance is the alleged cuts to the education budget. Under this government more students and schools are undertaking the Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL) than ever before.


The coalition has increased spending in schools by 3 per cent this year, despite facing the worst economic conditions over 20 years. Despite federal Labor cutting $4.1 billion from Victoria’s bottom line prior to our first budget, that budget included an additional $1 billion for education, including the single biggest capital investment in special autistic schools in a decade. While federal Labor is saddling Victorian taxpayers with Building the Education Revolution (BER) overruns and $66 million per annum for maintenance replacement programs, we have been saddled with yet another failed digital education revolution program.


The verdict on this issue is that the student appears to have a poor grasp of current affairs and history and seems unable to remember how bad things were when it was in government. It appears to be copping homework from its older cousins in federal Parliament without understanding the workings out. The mark is a fail.


On VCAL, under this government more students and schools are doing VCAL than ever before. The number of schools offering VCAL for the first time increased by 12 schools last year and by 14 schools this year. The verdict for the way the Labor Party looks at the VCAL issue is again that the student needs to spend more time in the classroom and get hands-on experience of exactly what is going on. The mark is a fail.


The government is committed to the Reading Recovery program because it is a great program for improving outcomes in early years literacy. There is no reduction in funding for the Reading Recovery program. All schools get funding for early intervention and literacy support, which they can spend as they see fit — for example, by choosing a Reading Recovery program. We are transferring powers back to students and parents to ensure that they make the decisions. The money goes back into schools, not to the bureaucracy or head office but straight to where it is most important and where there is most need.


Students and schools choose what they need and what they are looking to do.


The coalition will always work to make sure that schools have maximum flexibility. Our objective is to ensure that there is flexibility and not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to education.


The verdict is that this student does not have the ability to understand that not all situations require the same answers. The student does not show a cognitive ability to think on their feet or, depending on the situation, make changes. When it comes to the Labor Party’s attitude towards the Reading Recovery program, this is another fail.


On the education maintenance allowance (EMA), the coalition has increased the education maintenance allowance for every EMA family, including greater allowances for students in prep or year 7.


The school component of the EMA has been discontinued and replaced with an additional $61 million in funding provided to schools as part of the equity component of the student resource package. These changes mean that the most needy schools in Victoria are receiving additional funding to support disadvantaged students. The verdict is that the student is unwilling to read the facts and is arguing stubbornly for a point of view that they know is incorrect. The mark is a fail.


On the education conveyance allowance, that allowance was designed to assist non-metropolitan students to go to school and has been operating according to metropolitan boundaries that have not been changed since 1983 and include major metropolitan areas in Melbourne’s south, east and west. The coalition has made the allowance sustainable by redrawing those boundaries to reflect the urban growth boundary, thereby ensuring that the program adjusts over time.


All those who currently access the allowance will be grandfathered for up to six years to assist with the transition to the new arrangements.


Families in the urban growth boundary who are unable to access public transport will continue to receive the allowance. Students attending special schools are not affected by these changes. Again, the verdict on this absolute myth the Labor Party has put up today is a fail. Labor members need to brush up on their geography, including the definitions of urban and non-urban. They have a startling lack of understanding of the world around them, which could be fixed by investing in a new atlas.


On the School Start bonus (SSB), the School Start bonus had already ceased under Labor, but we extended it for one year to assist families receiving the EMA. The SSB and EMA have now been combined, with EMA families receiving more funding. Families with students entering prep or year 7 and who are receiving EMA funding will receive additional EMA funding in recognition of the increased cost of preparation for school in those years. Absolutely, on every account Labor’s record is a fail.


In terms of the highest paid teachers, Victoria’s teacher performance management system must be fixed. When the best teacher gets paid the same as the worst teacher our system is broken. When 99 per cent of teachers move up the salary scale regardless of performance our system is broken.


Under our proposal the best teachers would become the best paid. We will continue to negotiate and we will do everything in our power to limit the disruption to families. The only group that wants the industrial action to continue is the ALP, because its bosses treat schools like political footballs. They have used this situation to gain political mileage, and the verdict is another failure. They refuse to listen to the facts and, based on a preconceived notion, have mistaken the court’s words. It is clear they are prone to acting out in class and disrupting others who are getting on with the work.


The member for Broadmeadows asked how many plaques we have used since coming to government. We have not used them, because those opposite painted the plaques. All the plaques on BER projects, which were used just for glorified promotion by the federal government and then further touted by its Labor counterparts in Victoria, are an example of absolute waste and mismanagement when $420 million was needed to fix our decaying schools.


That BER money could have been used to fix the decaying schools rather than for a big, glorified promotion by the Labor Party. I reject the matter of public importance.

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