Victorian public schools ‘chronically underfunded’

Victorian public schools ‘chronically underfunded’

Victorian public schools are the second lowest funded schools in the nation, a new report released by the Productivity Commission shows.

The Productivity Commission’s 2023 Report on Government Services found the state’s public school students each received $893 less that the national average from the Victorian and Federal governments, or over $575m in 2020-2021. 

“Victorian public schools cater for the overwhelming majority of students in this state. They should be fully and fairly funded,” Australian Education Union (AEU) Victorian branch president, Meredith Peace, said.

“Instead, public school teachers, principals and education support staff are forced to make up the shortfall through unsustainable workloads and the purchase of classroom supplies from their own pockets, while families of students are called on to make increasing contributions for education essentials such as education and welfare supports on top of books and uniforms.”

At the same time, said Peace, funding for non-government schools has increased at a greater rate than funding for public schools.

“ROGS data shows real recurrent funding (state and Commonwealth) in Victoria over the last 10 years grew by only 27 per cent for government schools while there was a 37 per cent increase for non-govt schools,” she said, adding this is “an untenable situation that the Andrews and Albanese governments can and must address”.

“With full and fair funding, public schools can hire more teachers and education support staff to reduce workloads, provide greater individual attention, offer more support for students with additional needs, improve facilities and ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive to their full potential.”

Peace said both the State and Federal Governments “have a responsibility to put Victorian public schools on a pathway to full and fair funding.”

“It is the best way to ensure every child has the opportunity to attend a properly resourced government school with modern facilities in their local community,” Peace said.

A national problem

In an interview with The Educator following the release of the report, AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said the complex challenges facing public schools, and those who lead them, are nationwide, and worsening.

"Australia’s principals are reporting that they are experiencing unsustainable workloads, as are their teachers and education support staff. This is a key issue,” Haythorpe told The Educator.

“Principals and teachers also report countless hours spent on assessments, data gathering and administrative tasks that do not deliver benefits to their students.”

Haythorpe said the ongoing teacher shortage crisis is also causing teachers to take on additional responsibilities and teach classes outside of their subject matter expertise, while principals experience additional stress from staff turnover and recruitment outside what was previously considered the usual.

"For too long governments have relied on principal, teacher and education support staff goodwill and that has to stop,” Haythorpe said.

“It is past time that Australia’s public schools are fully funded so principals and teachers have more resources and support to effectively deliver learning programmes that suit their students’ needs, without being held back by funding constraints.”