The Rudd Government came to power promising an 'Education Revolution'. For public education it offered the promise of redressing eleven years of underfunding and chronic and systematic neglect of public education and training by the Howard Government.
The crucial thing for the AEU in this Budget was how far the Rudd Government would go to repair the damage wrought by the Howard Government to the public system, and the extent of new funding measures designed to implement its ‘Education Revolution’ election commitments.
The ALP’s election platform contains an explicit commitment that Labor would give priority for public schools through enhanced Commonwealth programs for schools and Kevin Rudd has acknowledged that the Commonwealth has a primary obligation to adequately and appropriately fund public schools. But despite the Rudd Government’s talk about more equitable funding for schools they have remained resolute in government about their election commitments to maintain the discredited and inequitable SES funding mechanisms established by the Howard Government until 2013.
The AEU hoped that the forward estimates contained in this year’s budget would provide an indication of what the Rudd Government would do beyond its commitment to continue the current schools funding arrangements which see private school students receiving over four times as much funding as public school students. Funding Labor’s election commitments is welcome, but without additional priority funding public schools and the students who attend them will continue to be neglected.