The fight over the way the country’s schools are funded will go another round when state and territory education ministers meet their Commonwealth counterpart today.
- Senator Birmingham maintains the Government’s funding model is fair
- Kate Jones says the Commonwealth has given Qld an ultimatum
- Victoria, NSW, SA argue their schools will also be worse off
The meeting in Adelaide is the first get-together since the Federal Government announced its plan to adopt a nationally consistent funding model.
The Commonwealth wants to replace agreements signed by the former Labor government by legislating to set out its contribution to funding public and private schools.
But parents hoping for an end to the political bickering over school funding look set to be disappointed.
Ahead of today’s meeting, one state has already accused the Commonwealth of giving them an ultimatum.
Queensland’s Kate Jones said the Federal Minister Simon Birmingham had circulated a list of conditions states must meet to qualify for Commonwealth funding.
“It seems to me this will be a game of ‘Simon Says’ rather than a genuine discussion about what is best for Queensland students,” Ms Jones said.
“I want to know exactly what hoops we are expected to jump through to get the promised extra funding for Queensland state schools.”
But Senator Birmingham disputed that, saying the only condition attached was that states did not cut their funding contribution.
He said he had also circulated a list of “general principles” about the changes he would like to see put in place to improve students’ results.
“If the Queensland Minister just wants to play politics, well that’s an explanation for her to provide but it doesn’t help one student, one teacher or one school get ahead,” Senator Birmingham said.
The Victorian Government will be represented at today’s meeting by the Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney.
She said the Federal Government’s plan would leave Victorian schools with a $630 million shortfall compared with the existing agreement signed in 2013, when Labor was in office.
“At today’s Education Council meeting my message for Simon Birmingham will be simple, Victorians won’t be fooled on education funding,” she said.
“[Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull has had the gall to pretend that this announcement is a positive for Victorian students and schools.
“But we know that these funding cuts will disproportionately impact on our most vulnerable students.”
Birmingham committed to ending funding wars
New South Wales and South Australia also argue schools in their states will be worse off compared to the money previously promised by Labor.
Western Australia is asking for more detail about the Commonwealth’s plan and has questioned data used to set up its online school funding calculator.
Ahead of today’s meeting, Tasmania has been more positive about the Commonwealth proposal.
Senator Birmingham maintained the Commonwealth’s model was fair and urged the states and territories to get behind it.
“This past fortnight as I’ve been visiting schools the response from teachers, principals and parents has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
“I’m committed to ending the school funding wars and the unnecessary partisan politics that some want to infect our schools with.”
As part of the overhaul, businessman David Gonski is conducting a second review that is looking into how funding should be used to improve students’ performance.
That review will report its findings in December.
The Federal Government will have to work with the states and territories to put in place those reforms such as literacy and numeracy checks for students.
A new agreement on those measures will not be reached until the middle of next year.