Schools left behind in state budget

The WA teacher’s union has slammed the state government for leaving public schools behind in the latest budget, complaining $200 million in maintenance costs and promises to tackle violence in schools were “ignored”.

State School Teachers Union of WA senior vice president Paul Bridge said Mark McGowan’s government failed to meet commitments made last year to fix violence in schools and did not meet funding requirements.

He said the 10 point anti-violence plan for schools, launched by the Labor government last year, had not been mentioned or allocated any funding to support and extend the program in this years budget.

Under the proposed plan, tougher rules would be introduced to punish violent students and teachers would be trained to manage aggressive behaviour.

Mr Bridge said the union supported the plan, but was disappointed no extra funding was put towards sustaining it.

He added the $13 million budgeted for ongoing maintenance in schools was far behind what the SSTUWA had estimated was required.

The union had assessed the backlog of maintenance required across WA schools and estimated $200 million was needed.

Willetton Senior High School deputy head teacher of humanities Hayley Maree-Bettermann said consistently being left behind by governments had seriously damaged WA state schools.

“We’ve never been worse off in WA schools in my opinion, I don’t think we’ve ever been as badly off as we are now,” she said.

“It’s an election ploy, and there’s no accountability for it, and really it needs to be on the front page of the paper before the next election.”

She said schools were accustomed to governments not following through on campaign commitments.

“It doesn’t matter who’s doing it, could be Labor, could be Liberal,” she said.

“Whatever the promises are, they literally never happen.”

She said over her career she had seen funding for schools often be misdirected and allocated to the wrong projects.

Murdoch University senior lecturer on political theory Ian Cook said this sort of action was typical for governments trying to make political headway.

He said maintaining a pre-existing state school was not as politically attractive for a government than totally rebuilding it or paying for the construction of a brand-new school.

“Just maintaining schools is not a good electoral policy,” he said.

“It’s not one of those attention grabbers, something that they can get positive spin out of.”

Ms Maree-Bettermann, whose school underwent a multi-million dollar rebuild under the previous government, said the end result of a new school was not always an improvement.

She said schools would be better off receiving more funds for maintenance and teaching resources, rather than total rebuilds.

“It’s ill thought out… the kids don’t want to come here,” she said.

“I’ve not had good experiences with the rebuild, I’ve had better experiences with revamping.”

Ms Maree-Bettermann said maintenance costs for resources such as IT may seem insignificant, but could make a real difference for teachers if they were funded.

“Yes, we need to make sure the buildings don’t fall down and the students are safe,” she said.

“The big-ticket items that really would change workflow… nobody cares.”

Dr Cook said providing an operating surplus this year could also explain why the McGowan government did not provide the expected amount of funding for the anti-violence plan.

“Education takes a back seat in this budget … I thought there was an under emphasis on education,” he said.

“Let’s face it, a central part of the election campaign was to address state debt, so I guess they’d see themselves as delivering on that.”