By Rowan Forster
The nation’s peak teaching union has sought to catapult federal school funding into a vote-deciding issue for Cardinia Shire’s parents.
The Australian Education Union unleashed the ‘Fair Funding Now’ campaign at Emerald Secondary College on Thursday, citing $12.1 in cuts for the La Trobe electorate over two years.
Teachers, principals and support staff shared their concerns with the community.
Eastern Ranges School’s Chris Cuinane said the lack of Turnbull Government cash made it especially difficult to integrate children with special needs into the regular curriculum.
“I get to see the budget frequently and I think we could do a lot more with a lot more,” he said.
“We are always trying to integrate these students into mainstream channels, but that’s incredibly difficult to do with the current staffing levels.
“We had a program where we’d teach the students who were border line between a mainstream school and a special school, but that was cut earlier this year.
“It was purely based on funding – it was an expensive project.”
The union is demanding the “restoration” of $1.9 billion in public school funding over the next two years, the removal of the 20 per cent cap on the Commonwealth’s share of funding and the creation of a $300 million capital works fund.
AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace said the campaign was about providing an equal, fair experience to all of the state’s students.
“We can’t afford to let another generation of children miss out,” she said.
“All children in Victoria should have the opportunity to get the highest quality public education, which includes the individual support and programs they need to reach their potential.
“Polling by the Australian Education Union shows the overwhelming majority of voters in 18 key marginal electorates, including La Trobe, believe federal funding for public school is too low and that funding should be increased straight away.”
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has past dismissed the AEC’s movement, claiming public school funding has continued to grow under the Turnbull Government.
He labelled the polling “a campaign by Labor’s union to try and get [Mr] Shorten to pay attention to public schools”.