The Greens announced today that they will be moving to protect TAFE's public funding from competition and slash fees, in a $900 million boost to the public provider’s annual secure budget.
Under the Greens' "Fund TAFE First" replacement for the Baird government's "Smart and Skilled", the public provider would have first access to all funds for each course that it teaches or could teach.
According to Greens NSW MP John Kaye this would reinstate more than $600 million a year to TAFE's secure budget.
TAFE would be able to restore all of the 1,100 staff positions that have been deleted since the Baird government moved to impose the 'Smart and Skilled' training market.
TAFE colleges would be able to reverse the cuts to courses, colleges and contact hours, reinstate face-to-face teaching, including where it have been replaced by on-line, and restore outreach programs and services for students with disability.
The Greens also announced an additional $180 million a year to cut fees and a process for negotiating with the Commonwealth to restore publicly funded Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas. This money would come from existing state funding of non-government schools. TAFE would be free for most students.
An additional $120 million a year would be allocated to funding TAFE to repair the damage done by Smart and Skilled.
The Greens foreshadowed that after the election they would enter into 'Plan B' negotiations with the Labor party to reform their plan for a 30 percent cap on the proportion of the vocational education and training budget in the competitive market.
Dr Kaye said that while his party felt that there should be no competition for TAFE's budget, the worst case scenario should be a limit of no more than 15 percent of public funds, applied on a course-by-course basis. For-profit private providers should be excluded from receiving public funding.
The Greens will also initiate a wide-ranging inquiry into competitive funding and the impacts of changes to vocational education and training over the past two decades, including the introduction of training packages.
The inquiry would look at the fundamental causes of the change from public responsibility for education and training to market-based allocation, going back to the 1980s push from competency-based training.Dr Kaye said: "The NSW government gives almost $1 billion a year to private and Catholic schools, in a failed attempt to make them more affordable, while steeply rising fees at its own TAFE system are denying thousands of students access to further education and training.
"There is money in the budget to make TAFE accessible if governments are prepared to spend it where it really will create affordability.
"Labor in NSW has lurched back from the Gillard government's enthusiastic support of competition for the state's training budget to a limit of 30 percent.
"Restricting the size of the slice of the budget that is put out to competition is a step forward. However it would still allow for-profit private providers to take up to $740 million away from TAFE and take profits of more than $200 million from the public purse.
"If the Labor party won't support our Fund TAFE First plan, we want to enter into 'Plan B' negotiations to reform their 30 percent cap on the proportion of the vocational education and training budget in the competitive market.
"The worst case scenario should be a limit of no more than 15 percent of public funds, applied on a course-by-course basis.
"Without a series of caps across each training qualification, there are risks that Labor's 30 percent could come from the easiest to provide courses, leaving TAFE to do all of the heavy lifting.
"At the very least, for-profit private providers should be excluded from receiving public funding.
"Stopping Smart and Skilled is a critical short term objective but without understanding and addressing the vulnerabilities of TAFE, its future cannot be secured.
"It is time to put 'education' back into VET," said Dr Kaye.
¨ Legislation to replace "Smart and Skilled" with "Fund TAFE First" where all public funding goes to TAFE for any course code where TAFE has or could provide training.
Benefits to TAFE: More than $600 million a year increase in the secure budget from 2015/16 at no additional cost to Treasury. Courses, staff positions and services lost in the lead-up to 'Smart and Skilled' restored.
¨ An additional $180 million a year in recurrent funding to cut fees to affordable levels for all students. Most would pay no fees.
Benefits to TAFE students: $180 million a year from 2015/16. Funded out of money currently paid as subsidies to non-government schools.
¨ An additional $120 million a year for TAFE to repair damage done by Smart and Skilled. Also funded from subsidies to non-government schools.
Benefits to TAFE students: Growth funds to provide additional places and to reduce class sizes, increase course durations.
¨ Negotiations with the Commonwealth government to restore public funding for Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses at TAFE and to end the VET-FEE Help income contingent loan scheme.
Potential benefit: A transfer back to TAFE of advanced education and training and an end to the rorts at private providers that are undermining quality and squandering public funds.
¨ Post-election negotiations with the Labor party to secure a better deal for TAFE than just 70 percent of the budget. Bottom line will be that for each course code, TAFE has secure access to at least 85 percent of all funds allocated to that course code.
Potential benefit: Removes the risk that Labor's 30 percent of public funds will go to private RTOs in the cheapest cost of provision courses, leaving TAFE with only the heavy lifting.