Four out of five public school teachers spend own money on classroom resources

Public school teachers spend on average $874 of their own money each year on essential school resources for their students, according to the latest “State of our Schools” survey.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) 2020 State of our Schools survey, with more than 12,000 responses from public school principals and teachers, has confirmed that many public school teachers and principals increasingly have to rely on fundraising and spending their own money to meet the shortfall in government funding for public schools.

According to the survey results:

  • 83% of teachers in public schools spent their own money on essential school supplies for their students.
  • On average, public school teachers each spent $874 of their own money on essential school supplies for students during the year
  • This means that extrapolated across the system, public school teachers collectively spend up to $150 million of their own money each year on classroom resources for their students[1]
  • 74% of public schools engaged in fundraising, with more than 86% of these saying it was important to their school budget
  • 86% of principals say fundraising is important or very important to their school budget;
    • While 91% of high-SES schools engage in fundraising, only 8% of low-SES schools do so due to limited opportunities to raise funds in a lower -socio-economic environment
  • Funds raised are most frequently used to pay for classroom equipment (55%) sporting and play equipment (50%) and library resources and textbooks (43%)

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the data provided further evidence that current government policy settings had left many public school teachers and principals without the resources they need to do their job.

“Public school teachers have told us that they are personally spending many hundreds of dollars each year to purchase basic school supplies for their students. That is indicative of the resource shortages within public schools under current government policy settings,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“In addition, 86% of school principals tell us fundraising is vitally important to their school budgets and is used for library resources and textbooks, to pay for school maintenance and for buildings and facilities.”

“Funding agreements between the Commonwealth and the states and territories means that 99% of public schools will fall under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023. This means that public schools will be underfunded by tens of billions of dollars relative to the SRS through to 2027,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This data is indicative of the deep inequality evident in school funding policy in Australia. Schools should not have to raise funds to provide basic resources. This must be funded by governments.”

Ms Haythorpe said that the AEU’s State of our Schools 2020 survey had reinforced the need for public schools and public school teachers to be given the resources and the funding they need to do their job, and for students to have the resources they need to achieve their potential

“Teachers in primary schools, those working with students who have a disability or in more settings, have said they spend over a thousand dollars each year to provide resources for their students.”

“Teachers should not have to spend thousands of dollars of their own money, nor should they have to run fundraising barbeques and events to make up resource shortages,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Federal Government must ensure that all public schools reach the minimum benchmark of 100% of the SRS so that teachers and principals have the resources necessary to provide a high-quality education to their students.”

“It is vital that the Commonwealth invest in capital works funding for public schools, to ensure that all schools have the infrastructure needed to cater for student enrolment growth and to provide high quality learning facilities,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It is a joint responsibility between the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to ensure that public schools have the resources needed to cater for the educational needs of every child.”

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