NSW and Victoria push Albanian government to close public schools funding gap | Schools
A new battle over underfunding of public schools is brewing, with Victoria and New South Wales pledging to push Albania’s new government to raise contributions to fill an investment gap.
New federal education minister Jason Clare has said improving Australian student outcomes against international benchmarks will be one of his top priorities.
Labour-led Victoria and Liberal-led NSW have joined forces to demand the new Federal Government close the 5% investment gap to tackle education underfunding.
New South Wales Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the Coalition would ensure it continued to oversee its commitment to public school funding.
“I will ask the Federal Government to commit to increasing its financial contribution to NSW state schools by 5%,” she told Guardian Australia.
Last month, Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino said he would engage with the new federal government to ‘pursue’ the 5% gap.
On Monday, he said it was “unacceptable inequity” that public schools received only 95% of their Student Resource Standard (SRS) – the needs-based funding benchmark created in the Gonski reforms.
‘I have always said that I will pursue this matter whoever the prime minister is – and that is exactly what I will do when negotiations on the national agreement on school reform begin in November,’ he said at Guardian Australia.
The current four-year school funding agreement between the state and federal government is due to expire at the end of next year. Under the agreement, public schools receive 20% of the SRS benchmark from the federal government and 75% from the states, creating a 5% gap.
Ahead of the election, former Labor Party education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said an Albanian government would increase funding for state schools ensuring they were on a ‘track’ to a full funding, i.e. 100% of the SRS. But the national teachers’ union criticized the pledge for its lack of timing details.
The Victoria Teachers’ Union has urged the state government and the Commonwealth to ensure state schools achieve at least 100 per cent of their SRS as soon as possible.
“Right now, our children are missing out, and the longer they wait for the funding they are entitled to, the more they are missing out on the programs, the supports, that they need to get the highest quality education,” the union said. President, Meredith Peace, said.
Peace said the union would urge the Andrews government to continue to advocate for the Commonwealth to increase its 5% contribution and campaign on the issue ahead of the November state election.
“Our view is that they should continue, regardless of the federal government, to push for this,” she said.
In mid-2019, Victoria became the latest state to sign the Morrison government’s Gonski 2.0 education reform deal, after a tussle with the federal government saw it threaten to cut its share of school funding .
Peace said the union also supports scrapping the 20% federal funding cap in the new schools deal and closing a loophole that allowed state and territory governments to claim costs of up to 4% on measures such as building depreciation and transportation as part of their contributions to school funding. These items were not originally considered part of the Gonski SRS benchmark.
Trevor Cobbold, an economist and host of the public school advocacy group Save Our Schools, agreed that states needed to “up their game” and not continue to claim such expenses as part of their contributions.
Cobbold said Save Our Schools estimates showed that closing the gap by 5% would cost around $2.5 billion a year.
A spokesperson for Clare did not respond to questions.