It’s been lovely to spend time in schools this week, seeing delight mixed with excitement, and often a touch of anxiety, on the faces of kids in their first year of schooling. It’s been great to talk to parents, principals and teachers about what lies ahead for the year, and what hopes for their kids the new year brings.
What’s not great is knowing some kids who need extra help and some of our schools have had to cut back on resources.
As kids return to classrooms this week, the federal government is cutting $3.8 billion from our schools in 2018 and 2019. This funding would have gone to programs, support and more teachers in our schools and be the foundation for better education in our region.
Having visited schools across Ballarat, I know $13 million from the early years of needs-based funding was already yielding results. Some schools have used this funding to employ extra teachers and teachers aides to help improve literacy and numeracy of their students.
Others have used the money to fund teacher development and exchange programs. More than one local principal has told me about the programs they stand to lose, the difference the funding has made and the impact it has had on the lives of students and their families.
I am especially concerned by the impacts of these cuts on special needs students. The extra support that gives access to kids with physical disabilities, or even the extra teaching or tutoring that stops some students falling behind, is so important.
These are kids with so much potential who just need that little bit more help to grow and achieve.
If schools are forced to cut core programs like maths, literacy or languages, then any program that covers extra support will become a pipe dream.
When funding is cut and teaching costs go up, students lose classes, chances to learn and the help they need to succeed.
This cut is not just opposed by the entire education sector.
Even New South Wales Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian has positioned herself for a fight over school funding with the federal Coalition government.
Needs-based funding means resources go to the schools and students who need it most, regardless of public or private schooling.
Not only is this important from a social equity perspective, it maximises the impact of the funding.
Education is the great leveler. Regardless of your background a great education impacts personal income and community wellbeing alongside poverty and inequality.
If we really focus on making sure that the education of all our kids meets their needs, then we benefit, they benefit and in the long run our entire region benefits.
In our electorate of Ballarat alone, schools will miss out on $26 million of funding. Victoria stands to lose a staggering $815 million. While that may just look like a bunch of numbers, the impact on the ground is tremendous. Imagine how many extra teachers could be employed in our state for more than $800 million.
I know our teachers care for our kids and want to see them fulfil their potential. Unfortunately the government is making their job harder.
But together we can send the government a message to not sell our kids short and to fulfil their 2013 election promise to fund education properly.
Catherine King is the federal member for Ballarat.