Home | Industry+Reform | Funding | “Unfinished business” in federal budget
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers arrive for post-budget interviews at Parliament House on on Wednesday morning. Picture: NCA Newswire/Tracey Nearmy

“Unfinished business” in federal budget

Unions and education industry leaders have shared what was – and wasn't – in the federal budget for schools.

Public school funding will rise 15.1 per cent over the next four years, from $11.1bn this financial year to $12.78bn in 2027-28, largely due to an increase in students diagnosed with a ­disability.

In private and Catholic schools, federal funding will rise 16.2 per cent, from $18.1bn this financial year to $21.05bn in 2027-28, due to “revisions to enrolment projections’’ as more families choose ­independent schooling.

The school funding figures in the budget papers exclude $16.2bn in bonus funding that Education Minister Jason Clare has offered the states and territories for public schools over the next decade.

Some funding measures for schools include $34m for an evidence-based lesson plans, student wellbeing support and professional development materials through a National Teacher ­Resource Hub.

The budget also outlined $4m for anti-bullying programs and another $4m to combat ­Islamophobia and antisemitism at schools.

A "transitional phase" for school funding

Australian Education Union (AEU) president Correna Haythorpe said she was deeply disappointed that Treasurer Jim Chalmers made no mention of increasing public school funding in states that are yet to secure a deal with the Commonwealth.

"We recognise that funding negotiations between the Albanese Government and state and territory governments are still underway, and we are united in our resolve to campaign to achieve full funding," she said.

"Our members know that fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure that every child gets every opportunity to succeed, and that teachers and education support staff are backed with the resources they need to deliver high quality education for all.

"The challenges are too great and the cost of inaction too high for governments to continue to fail on funding. There are unacceptable achievement gaps between children from different backgrounds and locations, acute teacher shortages and alarming declines in student wellbeing and engagement.”

Differences in the way infrastructure in government and non-government schools is funded also need to be addressed, Ms Haythorpe said.

two-year federal government scheme, where public schools could apply for funding to build structures that cost over $250k, and a one-off $215m public school upgrade program, will both end this year.

Private schools are set to receive $1bn in building funds from the federal government over the next four years.

“The Albanese Government should be leveling the playing field between public and private schools, not tilting it further in favour of private schools," Ms Haythorpe said.

“There is a huge unmet need for new and upgraded public schools where teachers and principals can meet the increasingly diverse needs of students in safe, modern, purpose-built classrooms, libraries and learning spaces."

Researcher of education policy at Curtin University Dr Matthew Sinclair was also left feeling cynical.

"Looking at the forward estimates for public and non-government schools from tonight’s budget, it seems there’s quite a way to go in the negotiations between Minister Clare and the Education Ministers of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania regarding fully funding the Student Resource Standard (SRS) for public schools," he said.

"Unfortunately, I’ve seen this trajectory on school funding policy for public schools before and note how it has ended in less than positive ways."

Australian Secondary Principals' Association (ASPA) president Andy Mison said whilst the budget investments are valuable, modest funding allocated to schools suggests a holding pattern while the Better Fairer Funding Agreement is negotiated between states and territories.

“We understand that this budget represents a transitional phase for school funding,” he said.

"ASPA has high hopes for a significant funding boost in next year’s budget; one that prioritises bringing all public schools to minimum Schooling Resource Standard funding levels."

The principals' association also welcomed $12.7m over three years to support the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in managing the collection, quality assurance, and reporting of school information.

"We believe that greater collaboration with teachers and school leaders is essential to ensuring the usefulness of the growing suite of national assessments, and mitigating the workload impacts of administering them," Mr Mison said.

“We also advocate for greater transparency and consistency in the collection and reporting of school data across all sectors, to provide a fairer, more comprehensive and accurate picture of Australian education.”

'Student with disability' loading boosts education funding

A rise in the number of ­pupils in state schools classified as having a disability is fuelling a projected $1bn increase in the national education budget over the next five years.

The budget papers reveal payments to government schools are due to increase by $200m this financial year, rising to $1.1bn by mid 2028, “largely reflecting an increase in the number of students ­eligible to attract a ‘student with disability’ loading”.

There is also an additional $98m for childcare centres to boost capacity for kids with ­additional needs.

It comes as expenses relating to the National Disability ­Insurance Scheme are set to increase by $11bn over the next four years, bringing the total spend to $60bn by mid-2028.

Education budget papers also show payments to private schools are going to increase by $1.7bn over five years due to enrolment increases.

First Nations students and students from marginalised communities

Remote Indigenous students will benefit from $113m in direct funding, including $18.2m for boarding school facilities in Central Australia, $5.5m to teach ­Aboriginal children English in 100 remote schools, and $32.8m for the Clontarf Foundation to support 12,500 First Nations boys and young men to attend school.

However, president of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association Louise Martin said not enough funds were given to the Assistance for Isolated Children boarding allowance, a scheme that offers living arrangements to geographically isolated students.

"The ramifications of this decision are far-reaching. Lack of investment in these communities widens the existing skills gap in rural and remote areas, hindering the educational opportunities of our youth and jeopardising their future prospects," she said.

"It further tightens the belt on rural and regional communities and jeopardises our children's ability to contribute meaningfully to society, both now, and into the future."

The association is due to meet with federal ministers this week to also ask for increased access to telephony services for remote and rural students.

Funding of $29.1m over four years will be provided to First Nations early childhood and education peak bodies to advise the government on issues including a new national First Nations Education Policy and First Nations Teacher Strategy.

Another $110 million over four years from 2024–25 (and $11 million per year ongoing) will accelerate action against the National Agreement on Closing the Gap Priority Reforms in the Education portfolio and extend programs supporting Indigenous education outcomes.

ASPA president Andy Mison also said he looks forward to working with the government and peak Indigenous education bodies to develop and implement First Nations initiatives in communities.

Essential services in remote Northern Territory communities will receive continued support, with $111.1m invested in critical health, safety, wellbeing, schooling and justice services in the area.

EREA Flexible Schools chief executive Matt Hawkins, who leads Australia’s largest network of alternative schools, said although he is encouraged by Education Minister Jason Clare's commitment to improving schools, more could have been done in the budget to support students.

"This budget will help to strengthen pathways to tertiary education for marginalised and disenfranchised young people, encourage better outcomes for Indigenous students, and elevate student wellbeing and professional development,” he said.

“But change cannot be limited to add-on initiatives – critical questions remain about how our school system will be transformed to better support young people across the country, to address staggering rates of students who are unable to go to school, and to build a pipeline of young people who are primed and ready to pursue tertiary education and training."

Dr Hawkins said he is looking forward to sharing what more could be done with government over the coming months, particularly before the release of the National School Reform Agreement later this year.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *