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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Education Minister Jason Clare attend a school assembly at Stuart Park Primary in Darwin to announce the funding increase. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Lukas Coch

Govts fully fund NT schools with $1bn

Every Northern Territory public school will be fully resourced by 2029 after the federal and Northern Territory governments committed to a $1bn funding injection on Wednesday.

Having signed a statement of intent on Wednesday, the federal government will invest at least $737.7m from 2025-2029 into the Territory’s public school system, increasing its funding share to 40 per cent.

The NT government will boost its own funding share to 60 per cent and deliver at least $350m in the same period.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) found NT public schools were underfunded by $7978 per student in 2023.

NT public schools are underfunded by about 20 per cent, and student disadvantage is the worst in the country.

The AEU also said the funding gap would worsen to more than $10,000 by 2028, and advocated for 40 per cent federal resourcing.

The agreement will see NT public schools funded to the Gonski-based School Resourcing Standard (SRS) for the first time.

The federal government committed to increasing its share of public school funding in all regions from 20 per cent to 22.5 per cent in January – a $3bn per year investment – but states also have to increase their funding to meet the federal government at 100 per cent of the SRS.

Western Australia was first to agree to a deal, matching Education Minister Jason Clare's $777.4m investment in January, to fund its schools with $1.6bn.

Other states said they are too strapped for cash, and the federal government should instead up their contribution again.

Upon signing the statement of intent, NT Education Minister Mark Monaghan said the funding will improve how NT students learn at school.

“This landmark investment by the Territory and federal government will make an immediate difference in our schools ranging from salaries to class sizes and technology, and under this agreement our most disadvantaged schools will receive more funding first,” he said.

Mr Clare said NT public schools previously would not have been fully funded “until the middle of the century”, adding that the ­combined commitment fast-tracked that time frame by more than 20 years.

The AEU is advocating for the federal government to increase its share to 25 per cent, but said the Territory would need a 40 per cent push to catch up to the other states.

“This funding is long overdue and will change lives in the NT. The bulk of the funding must be delivered well before 2029 because we know that teachers and students need resources now,” AEU president Correna Haythorpe said.

“The Albanese Government’s commitment to provide 40 per cent of the SRS funding for the NT is a just recognition of its superior revenue raising capacity and its responsibility to ensure every child across the nation gets the support they need to succeed.

“The Prime Minister must also ensure that the bilateral agreement signed this year removes the loophole in the current agreement that allows the NT to artificially inflate its SRS share by 4 per cent by including non-school costs such as capital depreciation."

The extra funding must be directed towards recommendations made by an expert panel at the end of last year, which includes improving the quality of teaching, reducing disruptive classroom behaviour, retaining teachers and increasing funding transparency.

Experts on the panel said no education reform can be achieved until schools are funded to 100 per cent of the SRS, an estimated national $6.6bn gap.

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