Education funding

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I will provide some tutoring before the shadow Minister for Education disappears. Recently James Campbell wrote in the Herald Sun:

Aside from Peulich, who else has so far failed in their current role? The universal view across Spring Street is that the man who needs to lift his game the most is education spokesman Nick Wakeling.

He has been the invisible man!

Mr Pesutto — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, on relevance, I ask that you draw the member back to the matter of public importance?

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! I ask the member for Narre Warren South to come back to the matter of public importance.

Ms GRALEY — The dodgy figures, the concoctions of money — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member for Narre Warren South!

Ms GRALEY — I come back to the matter of public importance, with gusto. I will read what a man who actually knows something about education said:

Some kids win the lottery at birth; far too many don’t — and most people have a hard time catching up over the rest of their lives. Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults.

They are the words of the Nobel laureate James Heckman, the author of many books, among them Giving Kids a Fair Chance. We on the government benches know and accept that students who experience disadvantage and have it compounded by disadvantage in their schools are less lucky to stay at school, less likely to get a job, certainly a job of choice, and less likely to live the healthy and successful lives that Heckman makes reference to.

It beggars belief that, as this matter of public importance makes reference to, when those opposite were in power in the Baillieu and Napthine governments they halved the capital works budget and slashed regional staff. There was nobody there to pick up a phone to answer a call from a distressed principal.

They signed up to the national heads of agreement without funding it. Let us not take a backwards step here: they did a lot more damage than that. They ripped out the education maintenance allowance, they buried the national partnerships money, they scrapped the reading recovery, they slashed Victorian certificate of applied learning support and dollars, and they even took the apples out of the mouths of babes.

The best case scenario for the former minister is that he is considered an absolute D-grader. You would not even need James Campbell to write this one: lacking in application; must try harder; work on those basic skills. Now we have a shadow minister who has certainly already been given an F for fail by the papers. They have named him the invisible man. It would say on his report card ‘Failed to turn up to class’, I reckon. He is an absolute non-attender.

This Labor government has a lot of work to do. We have a lot to do to repair, recalibrate and refocus the education system. When students turned on their computers in schools today, up popped a message with what their funding was going to be for next year. Every school in Victoria is better off today. We promised we would live up to the Gonski agreement, despite those opposite trying to rewrite history about it. They will get a very specific line item that will tell them how much additional funding their school will get. We are not playing games with schools. We are not making sure that kids win the lottery if they are born in the right place of the right parents. I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of government to work hard to ensure that every student does not have to get lucky to get the necessary support, instruction and the opportunity in innovation. We should have great teachers in innovative and safe classrooms. A great education in a local school, irrespective of your postcode or your parents’ capacity to pay, is the right of every child in Victoria, and this government is absolutely determined to deliver that.

John F. Kennedy said:

All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.

That is why the Australian-first, landmark announcement around using parent education attainment that will be linked to education funding is a great step in the right direction. I was recently at the opening of a kindergarten conference where a story was told that one year at kindergarten is the equivalent to having a mother who is tertiary educated, so important is that role of having a tertiary educated parent in providing the fundamental building blocks, the learning blocks for a student to progress in the future. That is why, if you do not have those advantages, it is important that the government factors it in and equips the school with the funding necessary to make sure that that student has every opportunity available to develop their talent.

In relation to catch-up funding, it is the first time every Victorian school will receive targeted funding to help students catch up. We estimate that over 9500 students will benefit from the $72.3 million dollars that will help them when they have fallen a little bit behind — or a lot behind in some cases — and are just not making the grade. This will enable them to put up their hands and answer questions as well as any other kid in the class in the future.

Funding was cut under the previous government, and we are still looking for the money that the minister could not locate. At a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing the minister was fumbling and mumbling and crawling around, trying to find where that national partnerships money and the Gonski bucket of money were. James Heckman refers to a lottery in life but the previous government was like a continuous rerun of Deal or No Deal, in which everybody was trying to find where the bucket of money was and nobody ever got the jackpot. Meanwhile the minister or the host just kept on smiling as though nothing was happening. They were all show and no substance. This government is totally committed to making sure that strong, targeted action that has strong accountability requirements around it will be delivered to every Victoria school.

I just want to finish up by talking about the fact that the previous government was told over and over again by the interface councils, community members and community groups that new schools were needed in the growth areas. I sat before hearings myself and heard people telling the government about the dire need for schools in the outer suburbs. This is a really bad indictment of the previous government’s performance; the fact is that in the start of the next school year, at the start of 2016, not one new school will be opened in Victoria. That is despite the fact that more people want to come to live in Victoria than ever before. More people are going to the outer suburbs and building their dream homes. They have a nice house, but they are not going to have a local school. That is a terrible legacy the former government has left behind.

It is not only that you did not buy — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member will speak through the Chair.

Ms GRALEY — There was no land acquired either. There has had to be a focus by this government on providing extra funds for capital and buying land.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY — It is never the fault of the previous government — —

Ms GRALEY — We are not a government that is going to leave everything to Lady Luck. We are about hard work and good planning — and we are wise. We are going to provide the funding to deliver great schools for every community and great teachers in every classroom. We are getting on with the job. We are going to be successful at it, and when the next article is written about the education state, the press will be saying it has been a great result for every member of the Victorian community, and I am sure the current Minister for Education is going to achieve an A+.