The Victorian government will splash $492 million to build 13 new schools and a further $340 million will be invested to upgrade 52 schools as part of funding announced in Thursday’s state budget.
All 13 new schools will be located on Melbourne’s fringe, where population growth has surged in recent years, particularly in the north and west. Secondary schools will be built within kilometres of each other in Wollert East and Wollert West, in Melbourne’s north. Twelve are set to be completed by 2023 and the other in 2024.
The government will also spend $276.4 million acquiring land in the local government areas of Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Mitchell, Port Phillip and Wyndham for future school sites.
However, no money was set aside in the budget for the construction of new schools in regional Victoria, despite people moving to the country in record numbers. Almost 80 per cent of first-home purchases in the state were outside inner Melbourne in the 12 months to March.
The Labor government spent a total of $3.5 billion on education in Thursday’s budget, including $148 million for a new teachers’ academy and $218 million for a mental health fund that will facilitate wellbeing support and specialist services for school students.
While $383.8 million was set aside for TAFEs, including for campus renovations and a new Victorian Skills Authority, the Australian Education Union’s Victorian president, Meredith Peace, said the budget had not addressed a shortfall in funding to deliver courses.
She said Premier Daniel Andrews was elected in 2014 after pledging to fix TAFEs and had introduced a number of new, free courses but not supplied enough money for them to be sustainable.
“The state government said they would save TAFE, but you can’t save TAFE when institutes are not funded to cover the cost of delivering courses as found by the government’s own review,” she said.
“Our TAFEs remain the lowest funded in the nation and … are struggling financially.”
The budget will spend $167 million on three-year-old kindergarten programs over the next year. From 2022, kinder will be available for three-year-olds and four-year-olds in every Victorian local government area for the first time – a key initiative of the government.
A huge $1.6 billion spend on education for disabled Victorians in November’s budget was followed by a comparably minuscule $70 million on Thursday.
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