Opinion: A Budget that revealed much about the Morrison Government

Opinion: A Budget that revealed much about the Morrison Government

What’s left out of a government budget can often tell you more than what is in there.

That was certainly the case on Tuesday night.

While hundreds of billions went to tax cuts there was no real new investment in education.

Nothing for public schools to match the $4.6bn handed to private schools by the Prime Minister last September. Nothing to reverse the $14bn cuts to public schools Mr Morrison made as treasurer in 2017.

The only announcement was a $30m local school community fund. That money for undefined “priority projects” will be shared between public, Catholic and Independent schools.

For those who couldn’t instantly recognise it as election pork-barrelling, Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, helpfully pointed out it will be $200,000 per electorate.

If the money is evenly split between the three school sectors its $10m for Australia’s 6,646 public schools or about $1,500 per school. Try cutting class sizes with that.

Ten million for public schools does match one other number in the budget though. Buried in the fine print was $10m for selling the government’s achievements in education.

So, the same amount for public schools as for TV ads and billboards to mislead you about the government’s real record in education.

What those ads won’t tell you is this: the Coalition has been deeply determined since day one to minimise its spending on public schools and to tear down the historic needs-based funding arrangements the Gillard Government introduced in response to the Gonski Review.

It started with Tony Abbott announcing in his first budget $30bn would be cut from schools.

Malcolm Turnbull decided to go even further two years later when he proposed, as part of his ill-fated tax package, that the Commonwealth stop funding public schools altogether.

When that crashed and burned, he and Scott Morrison went to plan B: still tearing up the Gonski agreements with the states in 2017 and cutting more than half the money but reducing the Abbott cuts to get legislation through the Senate.

They also got rid of capital funding for public schools in the process despite 76% of the enrolment growth in the last five years being in those schools.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the government will tell a different story about its record.

But there is one key thing that will allow you to make up your own mind about school funding.

Mr Morrison’s plan will leave 99% of public schools below a national minimum resource standard in 2023. That resource standard was established to measure the amount of funding a school needs to meet the needs of all its students.

By contrast, 99% of private schools will be at or above the standard.

Does that sound like a fair go for our kids to you?

Correna Haythorpe is the Federal President of the Australian Education Union