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Speech: Public Education

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 3 Dec 2018

I'm very proud to be the Greens spokesperson on education because the Greens are the only party who will stand up for public education at every single opportunity. We are unashamedly the party of public education. We are unapologetic in our advocacy for well-resourced, world-class public education from early childhood to schools and all the way to TAFE and university. I do want to thank up-front the Australian Education Union, the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the teachers federations in other states and territories for their advocacy and activism on public education. Their Fair Funding Now campaign is one we should all engage with and push for.

One hundred and thirty-eight years ago, Henry Parkes created Australia's first comprehensive public education system in New South Wales with the underpinning philosophy that every child, regardless of their family's wealth or poverty, irrespective of the religion practised by their parents and without prejudice of their level of ability, would have access to world's-best schooling—egalitarian, secular, democratic. These principles and ideals still hold as true as they did more than a century ago. But for too long, both Labor and Liberal governments have done special deals with private schools that continue to see public schools severely underfunded and unable to meet even their basic needs. What a disgrace. This is not needs based funding. This is not sector-blind funding. This is handing over hush money to those with the loudest voices to shut them up.

The Liberal-Nationals federal government has slashed billions of dollars from schools funding. If we don't make a big investment in public education right now, just 13 per cent of public schools will have the funding they need to meet their minimum needs by 2023, while 65 per cent of private schools will be overfunded. How is this fair? This is a national shame. On top of this already unfair system, non-government schools will get an extra $4.6 billion from their special deal with the coalition, while public schools will get no extra funding. It is incredibly disappointing Labor has refused to rip up this deal.

The Greens will keep pushing to reverse these deals that see a public system underfunded year on year, government after government. We can make sure that every public school receives 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard or SRS by 2023. Our students and teachers deserve nothing less. The Liberal government has restricted federal funding to 20 per cent of the SRS for public schools. Under Labor's recent announcement, the Commonwealth will provide 22.2 per cent. The Greens are pushing for 25 per cent of SRS funding, with the Commonwealth working with states and territories to make sure that they contribute at least 75 per cent. It is the only plan that will make sure that every public school gets 100 per cent of their SRS by 2023. And the very real on-ground practical implications of this mean smaller class sizes, extra staff, more one-on-one support—this is good for students, teachers and staff. Ninety-three per cent of public school teachers dip into their own pockets to buy stationery and classroom equipment. We can do much better. We have to do much better.

The Greens want to invest $24.5 billion in our public schools over the next decade to finally ensure that they have the funding they need to offer world-class education. And we can fund this by reversing the coalition's income tax cuts that disproportionately benefit high-income earners. This will raise $13.4 billion over the next four years alone. The Greens plan will fix the federal government's capital grants program so that every public school has the funds to build the learning and teaching facilities that they need. We must expand access to this program to public schools, which it doesn't currently, and we must more than double the funding to $400 million per year.

Public schools teach the majority of disadvantaged students so they must get public money to be able to do that. Our education system must be able to meet the individual needs of all children and no-one should fall through the cracks. We will work very hard to reverse cuts to funding for students with a disability and ensure that the disability funding tiers match the actual cost of delivering high-quality education.

Just before I finish, I want to thank the AEU and the New South Wales Teachers Federation for their support for the Greens fully funded schools policy. Public schools shouldn't have to wait at the end of the queue. No student should be left behind. The Greens are proudly the party of public education.


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