The Australian Education Union (AEU) State of Our Schools report revealed that parents in low-income areas are parting with the little money they have at fundraisers just to keep their local schools running.
Of the 725 principals surveyed nationwide, Victoria was the state most dependent on community fundraising. Up to 70% of principals considered fundraising was “very important”, and 52% said much of the money raised went towards “basic maintenance” of their schools.
In other states the figure was significantly lower. In Queensland, just 16% of schools used fundraising money on maintenance and infrastructure. In South Australia and NSW the figure was 20% and 23% respectively.
Kevin Pope, Meadow Heights Primary principal, told the Herald Sun that some schools he knew of had raised $100,000 in an annual fete but his community – 80% of whom lived on “extremely low wages” – struggled to raise just $8,000 a year.
Pope’s said the funds raised for his school went towards buying bilingual books, excursions and upkeep on maintenance.
“I have a grounds budget from the Government of about $3,700. That doesn’t even mow the lawn four times a year,” Pope said.
“I can’t afford a gardener or a maintenance person. We have working bees.”
Pope said Meadow Heights had 50 classrooms with a $13,000-a-year maintenance budget, but the money didn’t even cover the school’s plumbing bill.
The AEU calculated that under the needs-based Gonski funding model, Meadow Heights would be eligible for an additional $880,000 a year. The union is now pushing Labor to commit to the fifth and sixth years of the Gonski agreement.
The AEU’s Victorian branch president, Meredith Peace, pointed out that school fundraising used to be for “added extras”, not basics.
Eighty Victorian principals are meeting with State Government MPs this week to describe how budget troubles are having a negative impact on students and their learning programs.
A spokesman for Education Minister, James Merlino, said the Auditor-General’s report in February showed parental payments for state education had risen by $70m since 2009, adding that the State Government was committed to the “principles” of the Gonski reforms.