RURAL schools in the Mallee are “desperate” for additional resources following Federal Government cuts to regional schools funding, according to the Australia Education Union (AEU).
The comments follow the AEU’s recent submission to the Independent Review into Rural, Regional and Remote Education, which showed that regional Victorian schools need additional resources to meet student needs.
“The Turnbull Government has cut funding to rural and regional schools that are already struggling,” AEU Victoria president, Meredith Peace, said. “Students will miss out on the individual learning support they need, and risk falling further behind the two-year gap that already exists.
“The Turnbull Government has capped its funding to public schools to 20 percent of the school resourcing standard, while delivering 80 percent to private schools.
“Rural and regional schools that are already disadvantaged will be the hardest hit.
“(Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull’s plan means many public schools will not reach the School Resourcing Standard, while many already wealthy private schools will exceed this standard.
“Teachers and principals in the Mallee have told us about high excursion costs, difficulties in attracting and retaining staff, higher costs of accessing professional development for staff, difficulties in accessing professional services for support, and technology access as major barriers to their students’ education.
“Distance makes costs higher and puts a strain on school budgets.
“Children with additional learning needs and disabilities are especially affected, and many educators noted access to the appropriate resources was both expensive and insufficient to meet growing needs.
“Teachers in regional areas also find it harder to access learning and networking opportunities used to enrich students’ education.
“They travel hours to Melbourne, sometimes having to stay overnight and pay for accommodation to access the same professional development opportunities as their colleagues in the city.
“We are calling on local members to stand up to Malcolm Turnbull and fight for school funding for their regions.
“Nationals Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad needs to take this fight to Canberra. Schools in his electorate are worse off under this new Turnbull funding plan.
“Seventy percent of students in country areas go to public schools. These children and their teachers do not have equal access to the same support and opportunities as their city counterparts.
“We are sending a strong message to Andrew Broad that he needs to fight for education funding so children in Mildura, Warracknabeal, Horsham and surrounding areas are given the opportunity to thrive.”
Mr Broad disagreed with the union’s assessment, saying that under new reforms to school funding the Federal Government is delivering more funding to every school across the entire Mallee electorate.
“Each and every one of the 119 schools in the region will receive more funding in 2018 than they did in 2017,” he said.
This latest call to arms marks the second time the AEU has targeted Mr Broad this year, after a war of words broke out between the two parties in May after the union claimed the Commonwealth would deny Mallee schools $20.8million in funding.
Mr Broad labelled those allegations as “misleading”, saying at the time that this year’s Federal Budget had committed $348million towards Wimmera and Mallee-based schools over the next 10 years as part of the Quality Schools reform.
“The package will improve the Australian Education Act 2013 bringing a fairer, more consistent and transparent school funding model,” he said at the time. “Parents and schools concerned about Federal funding ‘cuts’ faced by their kids can be reassured there are no cuts being made to schools across the Wimmera, Mallee and Mildura region. Labor is misleading when they refer to ‘cuts’ to Federal funding made by this Government. What they actually refer to are cuts to a Labor election promise in 2013.
“This was never a program of Government, nor funded or budgeted for beyond 2017.”