AEU SA Journal:  August 2021: Contents

A hurricane they can’t ignore

How can we make public education a priority for our state and federal politicians? AEU members can lead the campaigns which will make a difference, writes Lara Golding Branch President.

Governments choose their priorities. A government that can afford to build a $600 million basketball stadium in the centre of Adelaide surely can afford to properly and fairly fund public education. Yet, while stadiums are promised and hydrogen power is debated, educators in public schools, preschools and TAFE continue to work excessive hours to make up shortfalls in government funding.

In the lead-up to the state and federal elections I’m sure we will hear a lot of politicians telling us the government can’t afford to increase funding to public education.

What they are really saying is that it isn’t a priority for them.

Public education is critically important to our state and our country, and it is our job, as a union of thousands of members across the state, to ensure that politicians prioritise it. In the lead-up to the upcoming elections, we’re calling on all sides of politics in the state and federal parliaments to make South Australian public education one of their top priorities.

Politicians respond to public sentiment. They are supposed to constantly put their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. More than ever, this year it’s our job to shift that wind.

At a federal level, the Morrison Government continues to provide supposedly scarce public funds to some wealthy private schools to build performance theatres and indoor pools, while many great public schools struggle to fix leaky roofs or install proper air conditioning.

June’s State Budget again failed to provide any real additional support to students or children. Funds were promised to enable the movement of Year 7s to high school, but there were no additional Support Services staff.

More checks were introduced as part of an expanded Blue Book program for the early years, but support and intervention is still to be provided within existing resources, which we know to be woefully inadequate.

We all know that education is about the one-on-one relationship that teachers have with their students – and that’s under more strain than ever before.

Too many children are missing out on the extra support they need to learn. Classrooms are crowded. Students with additional needs aren’t being supported the way they should be and teachers are trying to cope with excessive workloads to make up the shortfall.

With both state and federal elections due in the next 12 months, we are determined to show our politicians that educators and communities care about public education.

We need more teachers, more support for kids who are struggling, more support staff, and smaller classes.

Every child, in every school and preschool, deserves fantastic facilities and the support they need to be successful. This can be achieved if state and federal governments work together to prioritise public education and agree to properly and fairly fund public schools and preschools.

When it comes to TAFE, we continue to call for the Government to guarantee that 70% of funding for vocational education would go to TAFE. Surely guaranteeing that the majority of public funds go to the public provider would be a no-brainer. The Marshall Government has instead demonstrated that they prioritise the profits of private training businesses above high quality education provided by TAFE.

We are calling on all political parties to reinvest in TAFE for the benefit of students and communities. We need to rebuild the economy with TAFE instead of handing over public money to private training businesses.

For schools, preschools and TAFE, the power of our campaigning lies with our members. We need all our members out talking to their networks, collecting signatures for petitions and postcards, and talking to their local members of parliament.

Public education can be and should be a priority – but our political leaders will tend to follow whichever way the wind is blowing. If all AEU members join together in a strong campaign for public education, we will create a hurricane of support too strong to ignore! 

In unity

Our campaign goals, as endorsed by Branch Council for schools and preschools and for TAFE, are set out in the following articles, as well as details for some of the campaign actions members can take. I welcome your feedback – email me at: [email protected]