Teachers, principals and school staff have won even greater respect and appreciation from our broader community this year.
They worked together to rapidly and change how we delivered education in schools and colleges.
Now, as we look towards a safe recovery, we must again look to public education as an opportunity for a stronger and more effective recovery that also delivers fairer outcomes for all Tasmanians.
The Education Minister said it very well in his budget message last year, a message now far more significant: “Education is the single most powerful driver for improving economic and social outcomes in Tasmania, including health, life expectancy, happiness and productivity.”
So when we look for investment priorities that will stimulate our local economy, but also improve the lives of Tasmanians, we need to look no further than public education.
In other news:
Yes, infrastructure is important and many public schools are in desperate need of upgraded or expanded facilities, however, some proposed infrastructure is poorly considered, delivers minimal economic benefit and fails to spread the broad economic benefits that investment in public education ensures.
So what should we look for in the Tasmanian delayed 2020-21 budget? Public education investment that creates jobs and generates economic activity in every corner of our state and creates a more fair, skilled and knowledgeable state ready to take on the challenges and opportunities.
Here are some ideas:
- Increased funding to support students with a disability – more funding is required by schools as we transition to a fully-funded needs-based model.
- Fund new teacher positions to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 in kinder to grade 2 and 25 in other years and ensure more students have access to a specialist Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, music, drama and art teacher.
- Increase the number of Education Support Specialists who are trained and qualified to support students with additional and complex needs.
- Expand free, public, community-based Early Childhood Education and Care by building and funding pre-schools for three-year-olds in more communities.
- Fund a new classification for public school principals that ensures we attract and retain our best leaders.
- Pay Teacher Assistants for 52 weeks per year – they are some of the lowest-paid workers, but they are so valuable. Some are forced onto Centrelink payments over summer and this is unfair for them and bad the economy.
- Immediately increase professional support staff such as school psychologists, speech therapists and social workers. Students are under immense pressure, teachers and support staff suffer violence at work, yet we have a critical shortage of professional support.
I’ve only listed some options for schools and colleges, but our public TAFE also has the potential to deliver enormous economic and social benefits from much needed new investment.
As well as putting public education front and centre of investment in their 2020-21 budget, the state government should be strongly advocating that the federal government do their bit.
The Morrison government has failed to guarantee public schools the federal funding they need to reach the minimum Schools Resource Standard that ensures every child has access to the quality education.
Our state representatives should be having more than a quiet word in their federal colleagues’ ears about the benefit to Tasmania, our children and economy of meeting and boosting their funding obligations to public schools.
Investment in the people will deliver benefits more fairly and evenly than any other option could.
- Helen Richardson, Australian Education Union Tasmania president
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