Public Education is not a choice. It's a necessity.

Written by Andrew Wright - High School Teacher

Like many others, I have come to teaching late. It is a way of feeding my family, and the social justice bent of teaching also has an appeal. It is a high ideal to seek out a position where the potential for positive impact on a large scale is built in. It was a natural step for me to look at teaching as an option. As a man with an interest in wellbeing and education, teaching was a no-brainer.

The choice to apply to work in public versus private education is an important one. For many, choosing to send their children to a public school is not a choice they have to make; private schools are closed to them either because of wealth, religion, or status, so ‘going public’ is their only option. For governments though, there is a choice, and that is how to assign the available money pool. Make no mistake; there is a deep ideology about how the current Federal Conservative Government is dishing out education funding. That ideology is stifling enormous efforts by teachers in public schools to do their jobs.

Our Federal Government, the one we voted back into power this year, has an agenda that includes the privatisation of everything, including education. This is their way. They lower deficits, not by lowering their own spending, but by selling off anything that is not nailed down, and some things that are. I have no doubt that, given the chance, a conservative government would sell off our schools and make the Education Directorate lease them back.

Thankfully, we now have an Education Minister in the ACT who has faith in the public system. But we are headed for an election, and once again it will be imperative that we have the best people representing us. As education staff, as parents, and as members of this Canberra community, we need to make sure that the interests of the public system are upheld, and that those in power understand our struggles.

It is vital that they know we are against the federal push for more standardised testing; that we are against the federal push for performance-based pay; that we are against the idiotic idea that you can run an education system on a business model that says you need to put that system through a Productivity Commission to work out how to get more bang for your buck — I’m looking at you, Mr Morrison! 

Education is not about productivity as much as it is about people. And teachers understand that. You can’t ‘performance manage’ learning. Each day, public school teachers, who have spent their own money on resources, and have stolen their own stationery from home, arrive at school to classrooms that leak, that are ice boxes in winter and hot boxes in summer; they arrive to schools that are in desperate need of work, knowing that work is beyond the awesome BSO’s who share our frustrations, and we know that somewhere down the road there is a private school that is planning a new swimming pool, or upgrading their turf cricket pitch. They may not be using public money to do that work, but it is public money being spent on necessities that allows the freedom to upgrade the luxuries.

It shouldn’t be ‘us and them’ between public and private schools, but people who choose to have their children educated in private schools should pay for that, not us. Public money should primarily support public schools. Public money should provide public infrastructure that meets the needs of a growing population. Public money should support free education so that we have a well educated population, ready and able to become good citizens and, one day, maybe good politicians.

We are not a greedy lot, public educators. We don’t ask for much. But we do deserve to be listened to. We do deserve to be heard by those who represent us in government. We do need those holding the purse strings to open them a little wider, and to support us by supplying the funds we need to effectively do our jobs.



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