February 11, 2015  |  Second Reading

Education and Training Reform Amendment (Funding of Non-Government Schools) Bill 2014

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — I am pleased to be able to speak on the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Funding of Non Government Schools) Bill 2014. As a former teacher I am certainly very pleased to speak on a bill about education, and I note that the first two bills the Andrews Labor government has brought forward are on issues as important as employment, as is the case with the Back to Work Bill 2014, the debate on which I contributed to earlier this afternoon; and now education with our second bill. It shows quite clearly that this government places the issues of education, training and employment as key areas we want to work on. Having this bill come so early in the agenda for this Parliament clearly identifies our priorities and shows that the Andrews Labor government identifies education as a most important issue.

This bill before the house today recognises the agreement that the Labor Party made in opposition with the independent and non government schools, in which we supported them being funded 25 per cent compared to state schools on a per capita basis. We not only agreed, but we also said we would enshrine it in legislation, which did not happen under the former government. We are now taking that step of putting in place legislation to make the calculation of that 25 per cent contribution to the independent and non government schools transparent. At the same time we are setting up the school policy and funding advisory council, which will comprise representatives of the Catholic and independent schools sector and the state education sector working together to provide advice to the minister on a range of issues associated with the funding formula, which will allow the minister to make decisions upon direct feedback. I am certainly pleased to see this come into place.

As a former state education teacher and a member of this government I am clearly committed to seeing that state education is well supported. We know that there is significant need in state education, and I look forward to working with the minister to support that sector. I also spent four years teaching in the Catholic education sector and know that there is a great variation in wealth across the non government sector and certainly within the Catholic education sector. We know there are a number of schools, both the primary schools and some of the secondary schools, with a significant need for support. This funding formula takes need into account, so we will see those schools gain support, as will schools across the sector.

I certainly see that independent schools need ongoing support. It is reasonable to set a clear formula that enables them to plan accordingly. On that basis I am pleased to support this bill.